Government prizes have seeded some exciting startup ideas at the intersection of information technology and energy. For instance, after winning the Energy Department’s Apps for Vehicles Challenge, New York-based Dash Labs, developed an app that turns any vehicle into a “smart car.” Their idea for the Dash app – which uses hundreds of data points to provide drivers with real-time feedback on how to improve vehicle safety, performance, and fuel efficiency – got a boost by winning the prize, advanced further by its acceptance into a top national technology accelerator, and garnered $1,000,000 in follow-on funding investment.
Since the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010, the increased use of prizes and challenges by federal agencies has sprouted open communities of coders, designers, and other information technology professionals intent on solving complex societal and business problems. In 2013 alone, more than 25 federal agencies ran 87 prize competitions inspiring and incentivizing citizen problem solvers in unprecedented ways.
In an effort to embrace this spirit of American ingenuity and invention, the Energy Department’s SunShot Initiative invites the public to participate in a new solar prize challenge and find solutions to the solar energy industry’s most pressing problems. SunShot Catalyst is an open innovation program with more than $500,000 in available prizes that aims to accelerate development of products and solutions to make our abundant solar energy resources more affordable and accessible for American families and businesses. Through a series of four "contests," Catalyst will make it faster and easier for innovators to launch cutting-edge solar companies, tackling time-sensitive market challenges.
Since its inception, SunShot has helped hundreds of innovators bring mature solar solutions to the marketplace, particularly through its Incubator program. Catalyst’s prize challenge framework is cut from the same cloth, introducing the business community to the vast array of software tools, capabilities, data sets, and Application Program Interfaces (APIs) developed by the Energy Department and its national laboratories. Catalyst’s open, fast-paced innovation cycle allows crowd-sourced engagement, while helping entrepreneurs to build partnerships with the nation’s growing network of technology mentors, incubators, and accelerators.
It’s easy to participate in the in the Catalyst challenge. Start by submitting a problem statement online or voting on problem statement submissions from others. Even if you don’t plan to launch a new solar company, you could still win up to $1,000 cash if a team chooses your problem statement, then goes on to succeed in Catalyst’s later phases.
Questions? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.