White House wants prizes for innovators

Competitions for cash spur innovation, White House official says

Officials of the White House’s Open Government Initiative want to explore how the government can join with nonprofit organizations and businesses to offer cash prizes to solve problems, according to a White House blog post.

A project launched by the Sunlight Foundation is the type of project the officials could be interested in supporting, according to the blog. The foundation launched a Data.Gov Challenge that will award cash prizes to the creators of the most compelling applications that provide easy access to government data.

The blog also cited Ansari X Prize,  which provided $10 million for the first team to fly a privately built spaceship to 100 kilometers twice in one week, according to the June 17 blog post by Thomas Kalil, deputy director for policy with the Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Government agencies, such as Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, NASA and the Energy Department, are already backing prizes for projects developing unmanned ground vehicles, high-efficiency lighting and "green" aviation, according to the blog.

The prize format can stimulate private-sector investments that are larger than the size of the purse, and can change the public’s perception of what is possible, the blog states.

“The Open Government Initiative is interested in exploring how the government might partner with foundations, nonprofits, philanthropists, and the private sector to support additional high-impact prizes, and to harness the power and reach of ‘innovation marketplaces’ to achieve important goals,” according to the blog.

Officials with the Open Government Initiative want the public to comment on the office’s blog about what prizes should government should consider sponsoring.

About the Author

Doug Beizer is a staff writer for Federal Computer Week.

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