Innovation is often a bricolage

Necessity is the mother of invention. And when the City of London decided it had a litter problem, it turned to some rather inventive outsourcers to solve it. There are many definitions of innovation outsourcing. The NOA innovation Steering...

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Necessity is the mother of invention. And when the City of London decided it had a litter problem, it turned to some rather inventive outsourcers to solve it.

There are many definitions of innovation outsourcing. The NOA innovation Steering Committee, spearheaded by Lee Ayling of KPMG and IBM’s Tony Morgan, define it as "the application of new ideas, ways of working and/or the use of existing ideas in a new context to deliver value through change".

The above definition is a mashup of other definitions from across the industry. That’s what innovation is mostly, a mashup. We in live in an age where hardly anything is new, everything is a bricolage of ideas and intellectual property that are already out there.

Five years in the making, a mega mashup of existing technology and ideas has landed in the Square Mile to give litterbug city boys and girls somewhere to drop their used newspapers. But it’s much more than just a bin. It’s got functionality that James Bond’s gadgetsmith Q would be proud of.

The Renew Bin is a receptacle for recycling with LCD screens providing transport updates and news headlines. Some critics say this is pointless, as people have mobile devices for both those functions. But this super-bin is capable of interacting with smartphones, and as it is fully Wi-Fi capable, it will soon be bringing internet hotspots to the streets of the City.  

For a rubbish bin, it’s good in a crisis too. That’s when they could really come into their own. Not only is it bomb proof - numerous explosions in the New Mexico desert bear testament to that - it displays vital information in times of emergency, such as bomb scares, to direct pedestrians away from certain localities or tube stations. So when the phone networks are overloaded, Londoners can remain in the loop and out of the danger zone. 

It’s an innovative outsourcing contract too. Although are the bins are rumoured to cost £30k each, no money is believed to have changed hands between the City of London and Renew. Instead, the ‘recycling unit’ manufacturer makes its money through sponsorship by companies wanting to adorn the bins, to demonstrate their corporate social responsibility credentials.

The Renew recycling unit is a classic example of innovation: bringing a wide variety of existing concepts together, to form something fresh that fulfils a need, profitably. 

Bravo Renew, bravo.