What Is a Challenge Competition?
A challenge competition (also referred to as "prize challenge," "competition," "prize competition," "incentive prize," or any combination thereof) allows the public to solve problems presented by Federal agencies and receive awards for the best solutions. This boils down to three steps:
- Agency announces a problem to the public.
- Participants create and submit solutions to the problem.
- Agency evaluates solutions and awards prizes to the best ones.
This process may sound similar to grants or contracts, but Challenges under the COMPETES Act differ in small and significant ways. In grants and contracts, an agency receives proposals to do work, chooses one, and then pays the monetary award incrementally as the work is done. In Challenges, an agency generally selects winner(s) after assessing work that has been completed. In more complex, multi-phase challenges, phase winners may be selected progressively as development stages are completed.
Unlike contracts in particular, which provide detailed and comprehensive specifications of the work that needs to be done, Challenges define a smaller set of requirements, which allows participants to bring more of their own creativity to solutions. This can be advantageous when a problem can be solved many different ways, including ways that are novel to the government. The open-ended approach can entice participation from those who may not have direct expertise in the problem subject matter area but can lend expertise from their diverse backgrounds.
Challenges can serve multiple goals beyond sourcing solutions to problems, including:
- Signal government interest in an area.
- Reach wide communities of experts.
- Deliver messages to the public in a fun, interactive way.
- Generate interest in new services, data, or technologies.
- Develop public buy-in for agency initiatives.
For more information, please visit the FAQ on the challenge.gov website.