Eli Lilly

The Project: A Web site where scientific problems are posed and the best minds can solve them for cash prizes.

The Payoff: Over the past two years, this has helped Eli Lilly solve problems in months instead of two to three years.

Calling all brains. An Eli Lilly & Co (LLY ). startup, InnoCentive.com, is a Web site brimming with scientific conundrums. Anyone can go onto the site, come up with a solution to a thorny problem, and reap a tidy reward. Just ask David S. Bradin of Cary, N.C.: The lawyer and former chemist visited the site last year and won $4,000 for his synthesis of butante tetracarboxylic acid.

Two dozen companies, including Procter & Gamble Co. (PG ) and Dow Chemical Co., (DOW ) now put puzzlers on the two-year-old site. Some 45 people have earned a total of $600,000. Cheap research for the companies. They don't even have to pay the volunteers' health insurance.

By Michael Arndt

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