To be competitive, to thrive—maybe even survive, disruptive change is required. And this need for change is seemingly non-stop across business, industry, and entire countries. But how do we keep up? At Cisco, we believe the answer is digital transformation. It’s the pathway for improving citizen services, increasing efficiencies—you name it.

But we can’t do it alone. The Cisco Innovation Grand Challenge is accepting submissions until August 31. If you’re an entrepreneur or startup, it’s your chance to help us find the most disruptive digital solutions to create new opportunities and advance game-changing trends.

Like last year’s competition, winners  get a share of $250,000 to jumpstart their ventures. They also get access to the Cisco Innovation Centers and receive mentoring and coaching from Cisco.

While we’re accepting submissions for this year’s Innovation Grand Challenge, I’m sharing a look back at how the winners from the first challenge are helping to change our world. In the final blog of my three-part “Innovation Grand Challenge: Where Are They Now” series, I spoke with Scott Everett, CEO of Eigen Innovations, a company dedicated to increasing productivity and lowering production costs for manufacturers.

Q: Scott, thanks for joining us. Let’s get right to it. As an engineer, how did your background influence your work with Eigen Innovations?

A: I earned my Masters in Mechanical Engineering, with a specialization in advanced controls and machine learning, which has helped influence my work. I’m also very interested in how the convergence of technologies, like industrial operational technology with computer and data science, can yield revolutionary advancements.

Q: That fits perfectly with Eigen Innovations’ work. How did you become aware of the Innovation Grand Challenge?

A: The Internet of Things inherently requires collaboration and connecting disparate technologies together. We look to Cisco for thought leadership, solutions, and even partnerships in the pursuit of our innovation in IoT. In our search, we became aware of the Innovation Grand Challenge and we were encouraged to participate after making contacts within the Cisco IoT program.

Q: Your company focuses on simplifying the quality inspection process. What was the heart of the problem you were trying to solve?

A: I spent a lot of time working in industrial environments and saw opportunities to improve process control and advance industrial automation. That led to my research of how artificial intelligence could be leveraged to achieve new efficiency breakthroughs for manufacturing.

Q: How did you and your team approach the development process for Eigen Innovations, and what obstacles did you encounter?

A: When you’re building a startup, you face an endless amount of obstacles. And working in advanced computing and IoT, it’s easy to become enamored with the technology and lose sight of the actual problems it can solve—creating a big obstacle to gaining traction in the market. I always check myself to make sure I’m staying focused on the customer’s pain before focusing on solutions.

As far as the development process, we had a small, multi-disciplinary team with backgrounds in operational technology, software development, and data science. We took a “factory floor first” approach, focusing on understanding what the customer’s pain is and developing something that complements the workflow of the customer’s operation.

Q: It sounds like your focus is just right. How have things in your world changed since winning the Innovation Grand Challenge?

A: For starters, being recognized for our ideas in front of visionaries, dignitaries, and technology leaders from around the world at the Internet of Things World Forum was incredible, and humbling, given the caliber of participants in the contest.

We’re a young company, and the fun thing about being at this stage is that every day is different. There is a rapid maturity happening in the technology, the market, and by the solution providers. The Internet of Things, especially for the industrial industry, is moving beyond theoretical applications, and more and more real-world use cases and applications are being realized.

Q: Specifically, how did working within Cisco’s network help you?

A: Cisco is a leader in IoT and has global reach. Getting to work with them has enabled us to learn directly from thought leaders about emerging technologies and trends within the space. In addition to that, Cisco has helped propel us by introducing us into the IoT community and contacts within it.

Q: We’re so glad to hear about all of the success you’re having. Any words of advice for future competitors?

A: I don’t think you should set out to “disrupt” by design. First, focus on the value you bring to the market and make sure you have the application experience to back up the potential of your innovation. It’s less about winning the competition, and more about how your IoT innovation is revolutionizing the world.

Do you have a disruptive idea that will transform an industry or impact societal change? The Cisco Innovation Grand Challenge is open for submissions through August 31. Enter it now and visit the FAQ page to learn more.

To see what our other winners have to say about their experience with the Innovation Grand Challenge check out part one and two of our series.


Alex Goryachev

Senior Director, Innovation Strategy & Programs

Corporate Strategic Innovation Group