Today, the President announced the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership at the National Robotics Engineering Center at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. While there, President Obama caught a glimpse of what may become the future of Defense manufacturing – a concept vehicle that is a fully functioning next-generation combat support vehicle designed and built by U.S. entrepreneurs at a fraction of the conventional time and cost.
That accomplishment grew out of the military’s need to face rapidly changing mission demands and the conviction by the Director and Deputy Director (Ken Gabriel) of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) that it is possible to design, manufacture, and test a new vehicle in about one-fifth the usual time and with significant cost savings. To pilot this approach, DARPA enlisted the services of Local Motors Inc, a small company in Arizona that is led by a former-Marine named Jay Rogers and specializes in harnessing the combined ingenuity of the American people to push the limits of creative design.
A $10,000 prize competition was launched to design the body of the Crowd-derived Combat-support Vehicle (XC2V). Then the vehicle was built (on an existing Local Motors chassis design) in less than four months and brought from Arizona to the Presidential event in Pittsburgh, arriving ahead of schedule.
While the XC2V is the first-ever military vehicle design to be created through crowd-sourcing, it is just one of many products to emerge from such competitions, which are designed to drive innovation by tapping talent from unexpected places. As an example, each month, Local Motors challenges its 20,000 community members to develop novel automotive solutions for cash awards.
Such approaches give unknown innovators a chance to turn their ideas into reality, advance technologies that drive our Nation forward, and answer the President’s call to “spark a renaissance in American manufacturing.”
Faith in the ingenuity of American people is at the heart of the Obama Administration’s work to tap the Nation’s best ideas wherever they may lie. In his Strategy for American Innovation, the President called on all agencies to increase their use of prizes to solve tough problems. And in January 2011 he signed new legislation granting every agency broad authority to do so. The Administration also launched Challenge.gov, a one-stop shop where entrepreneurs and citizen solvers can find public-sector prizes.
In its first nine months alone, Challenge.gov featured nearly 100 competitions from more than 30 agencies, generating novel solutions for childhood obesity, financing for small businesses, Type 1 Diabetes, and many other national priorities.
Challenge.gov invites the public to design cool science experiments for America’s classrooms, take on America’s Home Energy and Education Challenge, build apps that benefit patients and providers, and map dark matter. Everyone has a role to play – whether it is competing, recruiting experts in your network, voting for the best submissions, or just showing your support for the prizes you care about. Check out Challenge.gov today and join the army of citizen solvers tackling our Nation’s challenges, large and small.
Tom Kalil is Deputy Director for Policy at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy
Regina Dugan is the Director of DARPA