Article | MIT Sloan Management Review | Spring, 2013

Experiments in Open Innovation at Harvard Medical School

by Eva C. Guinan, Kevin J. Boudreau and Karim R. Lakhani


Harvard Medical School seems an unlikely organization to open up its innovation process. By most measures, the more than 20,000 faculty, research staff and graduate students affiliated with Harvard Medical School are already world class and at the top of the medical research game, with approximately $1.4 billion in annual funding from the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH). But in February 2010, Drew Faust, president of Harvard University, sent an email invitation to all faculty, staff and students at the university (more than 40,000 individuals) encouraging them to participate in an ideas challenge that Harvard Medical School had launched to generate research topics in Type 1 diabetes. Eventually, the challenge was shared with more than 250,000 invitees, resulting in 150 research ideas and hypotheses. The goal of opening up idea generation and disaggregating the different stages of the research process was to expand the number and range of people who might participate. Today, seven teams of multi-disciplinary researchers are working on the resulting potential breakthrough ideas. In this article, we describe how leaders of Harvard Catalyst, an organization whose mission is to drive therapies from the lab to patients bedsides faster and to do so by working across the many silos of Harvard Medical School, chose to implement principles of open and distributed innovation.

Keywords: Health Disorders; Collaborative Innovation and Invention; Boston;


Guinan, Eva C., Kevin J. Boudreau, and Karim R. Lakhani. "Experiments in Open Innovation at Harvard Medical School." Art. 3. MIT Sloan Management Review 54, no. 3 (Spring, 2013): 45–52.