The Office of Science and Technology Policy outlined its progress in prizes and competitions by federal agencies for innovation in its second annual report released Dec. 17.
The report, required under the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act, details the prizes awarded and contests solicited by the government in 2012.
The contests and prizes have had considerable popularity, partly due to the White House’s challenge.gov website, which aggregates some of the contests. By September 2012, the website featured more than 200 competitions from more than 45 agencies.
Since the bill’s inception, some agencies have established policies to further take advantages of the prize authority afforded by the act. Other agencies, such as NASA, have staff dedicated to prize design, according to the report.
Agencies that have adopted the prize model have found they pay for success without having to predict which team is most likely to succeed. By making the contests open to the public, the agencies are able to pick which project suits their needs in the competition and pay for only that project.
This has lead to a reach beyond the “usual suspects” to “increase the number of solvers tackling a problem and identify novel approaches, without bearing high levels of risk,” the report said. A survey of solvers in NASA prizes found 81 percent of them have never responded to a government request for proposals.
The report concluded this increased the cost effectiveness of taxpayers’ dollars.
“Continued and increased use of the authority in the years to come will allow agencies across the federal government to reap the benefits of high-impact prizes for open innovation for years to come,” the study said.