Answer: When it is in the form of the General Services Administration’s (GSA) Challenge.gov. It’s a new way for governments at all levels to garner innovative products, services and ideas.
Challenge.gov provides an opportunity for government savings, an actively engaged community and almost limitless exposure and rewards for small businesses and individuals. It effectively sidesteps many of the roadblocks to public sector innovation.
One example of its success can be demonstrated by Nomorobo, developed last year in response to an FTC challenge that eliminates robocalls and blocks telemarketers. The inventor, Aaron Foss, won $25,000 and has founded a company as a result.
Prizes can be upwards of a million dollars, which sounds like a bargain, compared to typical R&D costs. Oftentimes, the most valuable reward for the public sector is access to an entrepreneurial community that bridges government and the public. The EPA’s Apps for the Environment Challenge, for example, didn’t offer participants reward money, however, they were granted the opportunity to present their products at a conference with other like minded individuals, while interacting with government officials.
Government needs more than innovative solutions and challenge platforms afford an avoidance of lengthy contracting processes, produce new solutions and help create a stream of innovation.
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