Innovation is the driving force behind progress and positive change, and it thrives on fresh perspectives, diverse expertise, and creative solutions. Crowdsourcing and prize challenges – a form of open innovation – have emerged as powerful methods to tap into the collective intelligence of the crowd and foster innovation. In this blog post, we will explore how crowdsourcing and prize challenges are shaping the future of innovation and how they are transforming industries across the globe. The blog also includes examples of key prize challenge platforms.
The Power of Crowdsourcing
Crowdsourcing is the practice of obtaining input, ideas, or content by soliciting contributions from a large group of people, typically from an online community. It has been instrumental in revolutionizing various sectors:
- Problem-Solving: Crowdsourcing allows organizations to crowdshare challenges and receive a multitude of innovative solutions. This approach often yields fresh insights and breakthroughs that might not be possible with a limited in-house team.
- Diversity of Expertise: By drawing on a diverse crowd, crowdsourcing leverages the collective wisdom of individuals with unique skills, backgrounds, and perspectives. This leads to well-rounded, multidisciplinary solutions.
- Reduced Costs: Crowdsourcing can be a cost-effective way to tackle complex problems. It enables organizations to access an on-demand global talent pool without the need for large investments in hiring or research and development.
- Market Research: Crowdsourcing is a valuable tool for gathering feedback and insights on products, services, and consumer preferences, helping companies tailor their offerings to meet customer needs.
The Rise of Prize Challenges
Open innovation prize challenges, often combined with crowdsourcing, are competitions that incentivize participants to tackle specific problems or develop new technologies. They have become increasingly popular for four reasons.
Prize challenges inspire competitors to think outside the box and come up with groundbreaking solutions. By offering attractive rewards or recognition, these competitions attract top talent.
Organizations can use prize challenges to mitigate risk in research and development. If a challenge does not yield a satisfactory solution, they are not committed to implementation.
Prize challenges engage the public in solving critical issues. They build a sense of community and encourage individuals to be part of the innovation process.
Challenges create a competitive environment that accelerates progress. They encourage faster development and iteration of solutions.
Key Prize Challenge Platforms
- HeroX is a platform that hosts a variety of prize challenges across different industries, from technology to social innovation. It operates as an open marketplace for crowdsourcing innovation that enables and encourages anyone, anywhere, to contribute to solving everyday business and world issues. Current challenges range from a $30,000 prize offered by NASA for ideas to eliminate harmful air travel emissions, to a $7.5 million prize for a community energy challenge to “provide support, build trust, and strengthen partnerships with underserved communities while advancing the clean energy transition.” This project was originally started by the U.S. Department of Energy.
- Wazoku empowers organizations to solve complex problems and continually drive innovation through helping people find, capture and share ideas. It connects organizations with a global network of problem solvers, offering challenges related to science, technology, and innovation. Solutions to recently closed challenges that are being evaluated include autonomous maintenance of solar energy plants (sponsored by the A2A Group, the largest Italian multi-utility provider), improving the delivery of sensitive communications, and novel applications for high-purity granular carbon.
- Topcoder specializes in crowdsourced software development and design challenges. It has built a global community of over 2 million developers, QA, designers and data scientists, and is known for hosting competitions in areas like data science, UI/UX, and more. Topcoder’s Challenge Model breaks projects down into a series of small, individual challenges so that solution providers can always focus on their areas of greatest expertise. In a transparent process, all challenges have a scoring mechanism or scorecard. Members of the Topcoder community compete to win the challenge and deliver the best solution, and prize money is awarded to members with winning solutions.
- Kaggle is primarily focused on data science and machine learning competitions. It claims to be the world’s largest data science community, whose members can grow their data science skills by competing in competitions. Current challenges include a $100,000 prize offered by the U.S. NFL (National Football League) to create metrics that help evaluate tackle tactics and strategies by assigning value to the different elements of tackling players carrying the ball. There is also a Playground area where newcomers can practice and develop their skills in providing solutions for lightweight challenges.
- XPRIZE is a non-profit organization that designs and hosts competitions to address global challenges. While it’s not a platform in the traditional sense, it’s a significant player in the prize challenge arena and hosts public competitions intended to encourage technological development. Notable past challenges with prize money exceeding $2 million provided by international corporations include designing spacecraft for lunar exploration, and next generation healthtech sensors. A $1.4m challenge to develop clean-up solutions for oil spillages at sea was launched and backed by U.S. businesswoman and philanthropist Wendy Schmidt.
- Devpost is a platform that helps software engineers participate in software competitions. They can participate in online virtual and in-person hackathons to build products, practice skills, learn technologies, win prizes, and grow their network. Beginner-friendly hacks, usually with zero prize money, allow newcomers to develop their skills and abilities, whilst accomplished participants can aim for prize money up to $75,000 or more to be split between winners. Some projects are for individuals, some require team entries, and some are for students only. Commercial customers can market their developer tools and jobs to the Devpost community. The company was founded in 2009.
- The CrowdANALYTIX platform focuses on data science challenges and competitions, making it a hub for data enthusiasts. It aims primarily to help clients achieve AI-based solutions to automation and cost reduction goals. It is headquartered in Dallas, Texas, and has offices in Bangalore and Tokyo
- GrabCAD began in 2012 in Massachusetts, USA, as a platform helping engineers manage and share their CAD (computer-aided design) files, and is known for its engineering and 3D design challenges. It’s a go-to platform for engineers and CAD designers.
Crowdsourcing and prize challenges are catalysts for innovation, propelling industries toward creative solutions and breakthroughs. These approaches are not just trends but transformative forces that are shaping the future of innovation. By harnessing the collective power of the crowd, organizations can overcome complex challenges and achieve remarkable progress in a rapidly evolving world. The future of innovation lies in the hands of the crowd, driven by the spirit of collaboration and competition.
BOLD Awards 2024
Boldest Open Innovation is one of 33 categories in the fifth edition of the BOLD Awards, “The Oscars” of the digital industries. This category is open to any organization that can show excellence in the way it has used open innovation and strategy within its own business to improve its performance and growth. Entrants should present clear evidence of how open innovation has delivered results and how this benefits both its organization and collaborators.
Entries must be complete by January 11, 2024, so don’t delay! You can start your entry now, and update and amend it as often as you wish before the deadline.
An initial round of public voting in January allows every entrant to mobilize their network of supporters, and the entries that make it to the shortlist of finalists will be invited to the BOLD Awards gala dinner award ceremony in Venice, Italy, on March 22nd, 2024.
By then, a second round of judging by an international panel of experts will have arrived at category winners who will be announced at the event, and not before. The BOLD Awards ceremony is a unique event to network with other finalists, congratulate the winners, and establish valuable connections. Then use your finalist and maybe winner status in your marketing activities to impress existing clients and open some doors with potential new ones.
To assess the standard of entries, you may want to check out the winners and finalists from BOLD Awards 2023.