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Bonn, Germany
Project Stage:
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

openISA is actively involving older people in new product and service development by running idea challenges for mature topics in health and living.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

In order to develop products and services which meet the needs of mature persons, mainly younger product designers seek to understand the different needs by placing themselves in an ageing person’s position (e.g., by using special age-imitating ‘age suits’) for a better impression of specific needs and design aspects. While using an age suit will give one a good idea of an ageing person’s limited physical capabilities, it cannot convey the mental challenges. The inefficiency of this approach seems clear. These designers may know how to design a product or service, but may lack knowledge of which product to design. Every development task requires two kinds of information, namely solution information (information on how to solve problems arising from production or providing the offering) and need information (information on a target group’s existing needs, to ensure new product or service fit and success). Both kinds of information are available from the elderly but are not taken in consideration commonly which leads to a high flop rate due to stigmatizing style and/or unmet customer needs. This is bad in general but especially in the field of health and living.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

New ways of involving older people in new product and service development are needed to face the challenges of an ageing society. openISA - Open Innovation for health related services in the silver market- is addressing this problem. The development of age-appropriate technologies of the future requires not only a broad understanding of the technical comprehension of older people, but the direct integration of their ideas. The project developed the FIRST interdisciplinary open innovation platform to involve older people in the development of specific products or services for them. The platform is a Web-based community space for users, producers, and providers of specific age-related products and services, on which innovative services in the field of medical technology for and especially together with the elderly are developed, discussed and evaluated. For the first time ever corporations are enabled to gather first hand need information due to the posted ideas on the web-space which leads to solutions which will meet the needs and in addition highlights the importance of the seniors as “corps of experts” about their own needs. This will also improve a realistic age perception as “old” and “innovative” are a mismatch for the majority these days.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

Instead of guessing what seniors might need the openISA project engages with seniors at the very beginning of the innovation process. The common process in research and development is that engineers try to build a solution using the latest technology which often leads to many options which overwhelms the (mature) user, the so called “feature creep”, Over featured handhelds stop seniors using mobile communication and therefore 1/3 of seniors in Germany don’t use mobile phones. Instead of addinga set of new features to a mobile phone openISA asks people of all age groups which functions or features are needed by seniors to meet their specific needs. Based on their day by day experience seniors as users of mobile phones or relatives as observer of their elder family members come up with hands on solutions which might not use the latest technology, but meet the needs of the senior user. The outcome of senior phones solutions from openISA was very different from what was launched to market at the same time. Open innovation by openISA ensures that the industry is focusing more on the user needs than on the latest features technically possible and enables the older.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

As far as we know, there are no other comparable solutions in the market. Due to this uniqunes the latest idea challenge on walker frames got the PDMA (Product Development and Management Association) Co-Creation Award 2012 in the category of "Non Profit Innovation"
About You
About You
First Name


Last Name


Implementer(s) and cooperation partners

German Seniors League



Country where main implementer is located

, NW, Bonn

How long has the main implementer been operating?

1‐5 years

Please provide a short description of the main implementer.

Germay is ageing, with severe consequences for all areas such as the labour market or the development of products and services. Deutsche Seniorenliga e.V. or German Senior Citizen’s League (DSL) stands up for the partnership between the generations. It is unrealistic to believe that state and politics can overcome the problems of rapid demographic change alone. Since 1993, as an interest group and together with strong partners, the German Senior Citizens League has consistently been giving a clear voice to the need of elder people for social, economic, cultural and po-litical participation.

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Cooperation partner

RWTH Aachen University



How does this cooperation partner support the initiative? What competencies and resources does this partner bring to the initiative?

RWTH develops theories, concepts and tools to explain and design interactions and the division of work in the innovation process. Therefore RWTH became the "method" experts on crowdsourcing (seniors).

Cooperation partner

MedCom interntional ltd.


Private company

How does this cooperation partner support the initiative? Which competencies and resources does this partner bring to the initiative?

MedCom is a consulting company focusing on product developing and communcation in aging marktes. They server as project manager as well as quality assurance.

Cooperation partner

Private company

How does this cooperation partner support the initiative? Which competencies and resources does this partner bring to the initiative?
Cooperation partner

Please select

How does this cooperation partner support the initiative? Which competencies and resources does this partner bring to the initiative?
Problem and solution
Which of these fields of Active and Healthy Ageing are addressed by your initiative?

Health literacy and patient empowerment, Social inclusion (intergenerational practice, work and volunteering), Age friendly buildings, environments, and communities.

If none of the above, answer here:
Please describe if and how your stakeholders (cooperation partners, funders, users, etc.) have been participating in defining the problem and developing the solution.

The core team developed the web-space and related processes. To do that we ran several focus groups with the potential users to define the best setting based on user needs e.g. usability. After launching the first ideas contest, seniors and relatives joined the contest and uploaded more than 200 ideas. After evaluating the first idea contest the web-space recieved some enhancements based on the experience of the first idea challenge. This loop was taken over three idea challenges each supported by a partner form the for profit world which support the core team with industry related know how.

Has your solution been tested in trials, experimentations, or pilot projects? If yes, please describe the process and outcome.

The web-space and all related processes including recruiting, judging and promoting was tested by three pilots each was an full idea challenge on a specific topic, each with a duration of 6 months. Every time the team measured different types of recruitment, on-site engagement and user interface. All fields where observed and the reported outcome lead into changes for the following challenge.

In addition researchers from the university ran several experiments which supported the set up of the pilot projects and also evaluated data generated by the pilot projects.

There are much more findings which are covered in a PhD thesis,

How long has your solution been in operation?

for 1‐5 years

Please select the relationship between your solution and related solutions currently established in our society. Is your solution…

complementary (your solution is complementing existing solutions and compensating their weaknesses while not intending to substitute them)

What barriers might hinder the success of your initiative? How do you plan to overcome them?

It still takes time to convince managers to run an open innvation project on age realted topics. This mainly due to the lack of interest in seniors driven by the stigma that old can not be innovative. There is a need of ongoing communcation and more idea challenges to proof that open innovation with seniors has its value for all parties, therefore we will run the next idea challenge starting September 1st.

Organization and funding
Regularly paid employees






External advisers and experts


Others (please specify)
What are the specific professional backgrounds and competencies your team brings to the initiative?

Our teamis experienced in the field of the conception of open innovation / crowd sourcing projects as well as in the related IT . In addition we have more than 20 years experience in engaging with seniors which gives us the ideal background to run this kind of projects. We also have a nationwide network of seniors and seniors centers which support our projects frequently.

Please describe your management or coordination structure in the initiative.

The imitative has one responsible project manager wich coordinates the experts of all fields and ensures the execution of the project plan.

Due to the existing setting of the team for at least 2 years we have established a clear setup of responsibilities and processes which is proven successfully over three idea challenges (pilots)

Please provide the total yearly budget in Euro that your initiative spends on implementing the solution.
National public funding


European Union public funding


Economic return from own products/services


Foundations and philanthropy capital


Single donations from private individuals


Donations from private companies


Crowdfunding platforms


Participation fees


Other (please specify)

50% Sate public funding

Target group, scale and impact
Which target group(s) do you want to reach with your solution?

openISA addresses on one habd the health and services and on the other hand we address seniors, relatives and experts.

Please estimate the number of persons within your target group (users, clients, etc.) that you currently reach directly with your solution.

50 companies, 20.000 seniors and relatives

In which local/regional/national area(s) is the solution currently implemented?

Germany (nation wide)

What is the impact on your target group (users, clients) you want to generate?

The health and services industry improves their product and service innovation concerning the senior segment.

Seniors, relatives and experts who come up with ideas which are mainly based on their personal experience have a chance to adress their needs directly to the industry.

What is the wider impact on society you want to generate?

We address the public by proofing that seniors are innovative which leads to a less stigmatizing age perception. In addition less stigmatizing products and services will increase the senior´s spending and therefore stengthen the economy.

What are the impacts on your target group you already achieved?

Ideasfrom the idea challenges where brought to market as successful products, but more important we received a lot of feedback from seniors which where thankful that the project enabled their capability to invent.

A lot of seniors felt overlooked as consumers / users of products and services which is crucial especially when it comes to health related products and services. If there is a lack of trust into the solution and/or it is not usable for seniors the usage or compliance is very low and therefore the desired effect e.g. of an emergency phone is lost.

How has the impact of your initiative been assessed?

Experience-based self-assessment (you assessed the impacts based on your experiences with the target group), External evaluation of impacts based on qualitative methods (interviews, focus groups, etc.), External evaluation of impacts based on quantitative methods (quantitative measurement of impact indicators).

Public information and strategy
What information on your initiative is publicly available?

Mission and strategy, Organisational structure, Information on team members, Activity report.

Please indicate webpage or contact for obtaining the respective information.
What are your milestones for further developing, implementing, and establishing your initiative in the next three years? Please describe 1-3 milestones.

The idea to use open innovation for senior related product and service innovation is still a novelty. Therefore we aim to run at least one idea challenge per year for the next three years. Hereby we will extend our experience while we keep the topic in the public for the long term which proofs the success of the concept in public and attracts more partners from the industry to run their idea challenges within openISA. Therefore the next three milestones are three idea challenges the first one is already set and will start in September 2013.