In partnership with the Wright Brothers Institute, the U.S. Air Force Research Lab this week launched a new Open Innovation Pavilion on InnoCentive, an online innovation marketplace where more than a quarter million of the world’s brightest minds solve tough problems for cash awards.
The newly launched Pavilion already features more than $100,000 in prizes for novel solutions to four tough challenges facing the U.S. Air Force:
The Air Force Open Innovation Pavilion is just the latest milestone in the Obama Administration’s efforts to increase the use of prizes and challenges to spur innovation and solve tough problems. In March 2010, the Office of Management and Budget issued a formal policy framework to guide agency leadership in using prizes to advance their core mission. In September 2010, the Administration launched Challenge.gov, a one-stop shop where entrepreneurs and citizen solvers can find public-sector prizes. And in January, the President signed the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010, providing all agencies with broad authority to conduct prize competitions. As a result, in the first six months alone, Challenge.gov has featured more than 70 challenges from more than 25 agencies across the Executive Branch.
For example, in 2010 NASA piloted a series of science and technical challenges core to its mission in the NASA Innovation Pavilion. One of the challenges sought a forecasting algorithm to protect America’s astronauts from radiation exposure in space. Over 500 problem solvers from 53 countries answered NASA’s call. Expecting no solutions for this long intractable problem, NASA received a solution that exceeded their requirements from a retired radio-frequency engineer in rural New Hampshire. The winner had never before responded to a government request for proposals, let alone worked with NASA. Yet his winning approach forecast solar proton events with 85 percent accuracy, a result NASA dubbed “outstanding.”
Who will be the next unexpected solver? To share your expertise and compete for cash prizes visit www.Challenge.gov.
Robynn Sturm is Advisor for Open Innovation to the Deputy Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy