Challenges utilizing COMPETES prize authority are just the beginning, says White House
In the first 8 months since prize authority for government-sponsored challenges was expanded under the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010, five agencies launched seven challenges under the new prize statute, according to a progress report (.pdf) from the Office of Science and Technology Policy.
COMPETES gives agencies a clear legal path for using prizes, significantly expands agencies' authority to host competitions and allows agencies to offer up to $50 million with existing appropriations.
"All indications from the first eight months of implementation are that COMPETES will help agencies across the Federal government continue to reap the benefits of high-impact prizes," wrote OSTP Deputy Director Tom Kalil and OSTP Assistant Director for Grand Challenges Cristin Dorgelo in an April 10 White House blog post.
Most of the best practices examples, however, draw from challenge early adopters--NASA and the departments of Defense and Energy--and competitions that pre-date the COMPETES reauthorization.
The OSTP progress report, published online April 10 but dated March 2012, notes that "high-impact prizes" implemented in fiscal 2011 are "just the tip of the iceberg."
Prize competitions conducted under authorities other than COMPETES are not the primary focus of the report, although authors do note that the use of challenges is on the rise--with more than 150 prize competitions implemented by 40 agencies since 2010 through vehicles such as challenge.gov.
"For historical reasons, NASA, DOD, and DOE began using prizes much earlier and have--over time--increased awareness of the tool, developed expertise, and established infrastructure to enable implementation," notes the report.
Agencies have established strategies and policies to promote the use of challenges, and in July 2011 the General Services Administration launched Schedule 541 4G, "Challenges and Competitions Services," say authors. NASA has also opened a governmentwide Center of Excellence for Collaborative Innovation to help agencies implement prize competitions.
USAID microinvesting, incubating aid innovation
VA, HUD and Jon Bon Jovi kick off app challenge to address veterans' homelessness
GSA celebrates one year of competitions through Challenge.gov