As you’re planning your challenge, you’ll want to review the relevant policies, memos and legislation pertaining to challenge competitions. The most important is the Prize Authority in the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act (PDF, 275 KB, 12 pages, August 2011) for it gives all executive branch agencies a baseline authority to run prize competitions. Be sure to consult with your agency’s attorneys on this to learn how your agency has decided to implement challenge competitions conducted under COMPETES at your agency. Challenges run under COMPETES have a few requirements, which include:
Reporting to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy each year on Challenge and Prize competitions your agency conducts under America COMPETES Act Authority. This includes an explanation of why your agency chose a prize competition to achieve your goal.
Getting approval from the head of your agency when the prize amount of a challenge competition is $1,000,000 or more. Your agency may have internal policy for a lower threshold.
Notifying the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation and the House Committee on Science and Technology if the prize amount exceeds $50,000,000
Ensuring that prize money is appropriated, or committed in writing if coming from a private source. This includes multi-year prize competitions.
Consulting widely inside and outside the Federal Government when selecting topics for prize competitions
Putting a notice in the Federal Register and advertising widely to encourage broad participation
Ensuring that judges do not have personal or financial conflicts of interest, and that there is transparency as to how the challenge will be judged. Conflicts of interest are also important to monitor when partnering with non government organizations.
Getting written consent if you take interest in the intellectual property submitted to a prize competition
Ensuring that contestants have agreed to the rules of the prize competition, and that federal employees and foreign entities are not entering the challenge inappropriately
Your agency may have other authorities in addition to America COMPETES. A list of those possibilities appears in Guidance on the Use of Challenges and Prizes to Promote Open Government (PDF, 94 KB, 12 pages, March 2010). This memo also outlines the benefits and types of challenges and prizes. Again, you will want to consult with your own agency’s attorneys for further guidance on any additional authorities which may apply to you.
Other Memos and Guides
- UK Centre for Challenge Prizes – Guide for Designing and Administering Inducement Competitions (PDF, 2,393KB, February 2014)
- Open Government Directive—This directive called attention to the citizen engagement benefits of challenges and prizes
- President’s Strategy for American Innovation—The White House first called on agencies to use challenges and prizes in this September 2009 memo.
Familiarize Yourself with Challenges through Case Studies
- Challenges Conducted Under America COMPETES Act Authority (PDF, 1,753 KB, 135 pages, May 2014) – Report to Congress from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy
- Challenges Conducted Under America COMPETES Act Authority (PDF, 1,257 KB, 95 pages, December 2013)—Report to Congress from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy
- Challenges Conducted Under America COMPETES Act Authority (PDF, 486 KB, 53 pages, March 2012)—Report to Congress from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy
- Challenge.gov: Using Competitions and Awards to Spur Innovation (PDF, 2.31 MB, 52 pages, September 2012)
- NASA’s Innovation Pavillion—This challenge helped figure out ways to keep food fresh in space, as well as forecast solar events
- White House Open Government Innovator’s Toolkit—Features nine case studies about challenges and prizes
- Apps Challenges Toolkit—GSA developed this toolkit for apps challenges in conjunction with a March 1, 2011 event.
- EPA’s Apps for the Environment: Lessons Learned
Examples Across Government
- Go to Challenge.gov for current challenges, as well as those that have run on the site since it launched in September 2010.
Examples From the Private Sector
- X Prize Foundation—The X Prize Foundation has solved many Grand Challenges, such as the oil spill clean-up and commercial space travel.
- Selected Innovation Prizes and Reward Programs (PDF, 720 KB, 51 pages, November 2008)—Public and private sector challenge examples that span history and the globe.
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