Results Posted: 2012 Challenge Report

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This week the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy released its second comprehensive report detailing the use of federal challenge and prize competitions.

Read it and you’ll find details about the fiscal benefits of more than 300 competitions implemented by 45 agencies.

As the report released today makes clear, agencies made big strides in the challenge arena in FY 2012. In FY 2011, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) began establishing strategies to expand its use of the new prize authority – and by FY 2012, HHS emerged as a leader in implementing prize programs, offering 18 prize competitions, many conducted through public-private partnerships. Also in FY 2012, the Department of Labor and the Small Business Administration issued challenges focused on leveraging open government data to benefit entrepreneurs, job-seekers, and small businesses.

To support these ongoing efforts, the General Services Administration continues to train agencies about resources and vendors available to help them administer prize competitions. In addition, NASA’s Center of Excellence for Collaborative Innovation (CoECI) provides other agencies with a full suite of services for incentive prize pilots – from prize design, through implementation, to post-prize evaluation.

You can view the full blog post by Cristin Dorgelo, _Assistant Director for Grand Challenges at OSTP.___****

Notable FY 2012 prizes detailed in the report include:

  • Apps for Energy –**** The Department of Energy offered $100,000 in prizes to software developers for the best new applications (apps) that help utility customers make the most out of their Green Button electricity usage data. The Grand Prize winner, Leafully, helps people understand energy usage through diving deep into the hourly data with historic trends, understanding the effect of the abstract units of energy, and taking action with tree values in mind along with friends.

  • Census Return Rate Challenge – The U.S. Census Bureau conducted a prize competition that challenged statisticians, mathematicians, and other data scientists to analyze Census data in order to create a statistical model to predict Decennial Census mail return rates at the Census block group level of geography. The winning teams’ models used statistical methods not previously utilized by the agency and will be used in modeling for the decennial census and demographic sample surveys.

  • DARPA Shredder Challenge –**** DARPA’s Shredder Challenge called upon computer scientists and puzzle enthusiasts to compete for up to $50,000 by piecing together a series of shredded documents. The prize’s goal was to identify and assess potential capabilities that could be used by U.S. warfighters or that might also create vulnerabilities related to sensitive information. Almost 9,000 teams registered to participate in DARPA’s Shredder Challenge and 33 days after the challenge was announced, one small San Francisco-based team correctly solved the puzzles, piecing together documents that were shredded into more than 10,000 pieces.

  • Disability Employment App Challenge –**** The Department of Labor asked developers to help build innovative tools to improve employment opportunities and outcomes for people with disabilities. There were three winners: Access Jobs, a job search portal designed for job seekers with disabilities; VoisPal, an Android-based app designed to help people with speech difficulties; and Accelerated Dynamic Content, a management system that automates dynamic content to ensure accessibility for screen reader and keyboard-only users.

All indications from the first two years of implementation are that the prize authority in COMPETES is continuing to help agencies across the Federal Government reap the benefits of high-impact prizes.

Learn more about the prize competitions being run across the Federal Government at