Government as a Catalyst: Prizes for Tech Innovation

POCG_SessionGraphic_web2_JennG
POCG_SessionGraphic_web2_JennG

At this year’s South by South West Interactive (SXSWi) conference, I’m pleased to be moderating a panel on the role of government and prizes in stimulating technology innovation and providing public services. Federal agencies have recently been given the authority by Congress to sponsor competitions for individuals, groups, and companies to develop new ideas and technology innovations for a chance to win potentially lucrative prizes. These competitions can range from new mobile outreach technologies to web-based data analytics tools to even vehicle-to-vehicle communications; the government is looking for breakthrough technologies from the minds of the most creative and forward thinking Americans.

The panel will highlight some of the coolest prizes for technology development that the government has been involved in to date, including the DOT’s Connected Vehicle Challenge, the VA’s industry competition and blue button projects, and NASA’s centennial challenges. Additionally we will explore what role the government should be playing in these activities moving forward by looking at some prizes where the government did not have a role.

Here’s a sneak preview about what you’ll hear if you come spend an hour with us. We believe prizes matter for many reasons, but we’ll focus on four during the session:

  1. They work. How can we be so sure? You’ll hear about a series of prizes from NASA, VA, and DOT that demonstrate the value of government sponsored prizes.
  2. They complement other innovation methods. There are many ways to stimulate technology development and many actors are involved in doing so. It doesn’t happen very often however that government gets a BRAND NEW way to stimulate innovation—and prizes are just that. Prizes are a new way for government to stimulate technology development that compliments other, traditional methods for innovation. We’ll give some interesting examples of where prizes work with other innovation methods in government to create some really cool results.
  3. They're becoming a way of doing business. If government is spending money and doing business this way, entrepreneurs and industry alike should be paying attention. Imagine a world where as much money flows through an organization through prizes as it does through contracts. Now that’s big business.
  4. They're exposing different roles for Government. Government does not always need to have a role for prizes to work however. The question no longer is CAN government have a role, but SHOULD they. The private sector is increasingly involved in activities that affect the public good and people WANT to get engaged in the public good. We believe this may create room for the public sector to disengage or interesting public-private partnerships to form. We’ll talk about some instances where this is happening.

Our impressive lineup of panelists includes Chris Gerty from NASA (@gerty), Mari Kuraishi from Global Giving (@mashenka), Michael O'Neill from the U.S. Veteran's Administration (@mdoneill), James Pol from the US Department of Transportation (@polgmu), and me as your humble moderator (@jenngustetic). The panel is on Tuesday March 13 at 11AM at the AT&T Conference Hotel—if you can join us, let us know through Plancast. Alternatively, we’ll also be tweeting and you can follow our session at #SXTechPrize live during the session.

Have questions for the panelists? Let me know and I’ll make sure to ask them for you if you send in advance.

Hope to see you there!

Jenn