Incentivizing Innovation: How The White House Uses Challenge.gov To Solve Big Problems

Feb 17 2014, 12:13pm CST | by

At a recent panel discussion organized by XPRIZE, the global leader in the creation of incentivized prize competitions, Cristin Dorgelo, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy Assistant Director for Grand Challenges, talked about some of the most brilliant and impactful innovations coming out of Challenge.gov—a partnership between the public and the government to solve big, tough problems.

Challenge.gov is a collection of challenge and prize competitions, all of which are run by more than 50 agencies across federal government. These include technical, scientific, ideation, and creative competitions where the U.S. government seeks innovative solutions from the public, bringing the best ideas and talent together to solve mission-centric problems.

Learn more about some of the challenges, solutions, and innovators below.

Robocall Challenge:  In October 2012, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced the Robocall Challenge with a $50,000 prize for the individual or group that could come up with the best technical proposal to help consumers block illegal robocalls. In April 2013, the FTC announced the winners of its Robocall Challenge. “ Nomorobo”, one of the winning proposals, is a solution, developed by citizen solver Aaron Foss, which allows incoming calls to be routed to a second telephone line. This second line can identify and hang up on illegal robocalls before they could ring through to users. Nomorobo has over 25,000 users and is protecting more than 18,000 phone lines from over 48,000 robocalls per week. Nomorobo is working with phone carriers to bring this service to additional customers as soon as possible. Aaron emphasizes that he never would have worked on the robocall problem if not for the challenge. To date, almost 955,000 robocalls have been blocked so far.

Astronaut Glove Challenge: In the pressure suits that astronauts must wear while performing a spacewalk, one of the toughest parts to design are the gloves. Peter Homer and his startup spacesuit company Flagsuit LLC won the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) $450,000 prize purse for designing an improved, flexible glove for use by NASA’s astronauts. Peter had been an entrepreneur, satellite designer, sailmaker, microgravity experiment designer, and local community center director. Since winning the competition, Flagsuit LLC has signed an agreement with NASA to develop and test improved spacesuit gloves.

My Air, My Health Challenge: With $160,000 in prizes offered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service (HHS), the My Air, My Health Challenge was a multidisciplinary call to innovators to create a personal, portable, near-real-time, location-specific system to monitor and report air pollutants and potentially-related health events. Judges unanimously awarded the $100,000 prize to the team of David Kuller, Gabrielle Dockterman, and Dot Kelly for their Conscious Clothing prototype, which could cost users as little as $20. Its affordable price, comfort, and near-invisibility make it attractive not only to researchers and communities, but to individuals looking to take charge of their own health.

Wendy Schmidt Oil Cleanup X Challenge: In 2011, the $1.4 million XPRIZE competition, supported by technical expertise from the Department of Interior and NOAA, inspired entrepreneurs, engineers, and scientists worldwide to develop innovative, rapidly deployable, and highly efficient methods of cleaning up oil spills from the ocean surface. The winner, Elastec/American Marine – a growing Illinois-based manufacturer of oil spill and environmental equipment that uses local talent for nearly all its fabrication – recovered oil at a rate more than three times the best previously recorded in controlled conditions.

Ensuring Safe Transitions from Hospital to Home ChallengeIn December 2011, Axial Exchange won first prize in the US Department of Health and Human Office of the National Coordinator “Ensuring Safe Transitions From Hospital to Home” Challenge. The Challenge called on developers to create solutions that improve patient safety and help facilitate care transitions for patients discharged from hospitals to other care settings (including but not limited to homes, nursing homes and hospices). Axial Exchange’s winning solution, The Axial Care Transition Suite, is a web-based application that enables information to flow to a transitioning patient’s next care setting so that providers have necessary information, and so that patients are engaged with the information and tools needed to improve their health knowledge and enhance their ownership of after-care responsibilities.

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Source: Forbes Business

 
 

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