New Approaches to Problem Solving. HHS Competes is a fresh approach to solving problems, including implementing new methodologies and mechanisms for spurring innovation, helping agencies to advance their core missions, and providing new acquisition methods. Driven by the America COMPETES Act signed by President Obama in 2011, HHS Competes seeks to make the challenges faced by government and industry transparent by enabling participation from innovators both within and outside of government.
To date, every operating and staff division of HHS has participated in a challenge or competition, resulting in over 100 challenges, 2 million dollars in prizes and the formulation of many novel solutions to address complex problems.
HHS Competes was established after the signing of the America COMPETES Act, to invest in innovation through research and development, and to improve the competitiveness of the United States. It’s a way for HHS employees to draw on external talent and ideas to solve critical problems.
In recent years, crowdsourcing and inducement prizes have led to the creation of a private spacecraft industry, driverless cars, vastly improved data analytics capabilities, and the world’s largest encyclopedia – not to mention numerous solutions to problems that organizations continually face.
Congress passed the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010, providing clear legal guidance for Federal agencies to leverage the innovative power of crowdsourcing and inducement prizes.
HHS Competes is the Department’s pathway to implement this prize authority to drive innovation and advance the mission of HHS and its divisions. The initiative partners innovators, from both within and outside government, in a way that is not possible through more traditional grants or contracts.
HHS has successfully administered over 100 competitions, connecting the public, industry, and government to solve the most complex problems we face in government.
HHS Competes supports HHS employees in conducting crowdsourcing competitions. We believe competitions can be applied at HHS in 3 ways:
Strengthen and broaden public engagement
Offer a more nimble, less costly acquisition tool
Stimulate innovation in new or stagnant industries or markets
Among the many values that crowdsourcing and inducement prizes can bring to an organization, we believe that for HHS these three are particularly important:
Pay only for what works. If submissions don’t meet your stated criteria, you don’t have to pay.
Reduce costs and time to get solutions. Because you only care about solutions, not who is providing them, there is no need to go through extensive evaluation as with contracts/grants.
Get better solutions from a unexpected community. Studies have shown that often the best solutions to problems come from communities marginal to the problem and not necessarily the perceived experts.
HHS is continually pushing the boundaries on the benefits and uses of the prize mechanism. They can inform strategy by motivating the public to share their ideas, improve operational efficiencies by quickly identifying best practices, and drive mission goals by the development of new product and services. HHS Competes works with HHS agencies directly, providing guidance on how crowdsourcing and inducement prizes can benefit agencies and its mission, resources on how to run a competition, and communities that bring together innovators from across the Department who can share experiences and collaborate on future projects.
The development of your challenge competition concept should be guided by your OPDIV’s or STAFFDIV’s internal policies on how it wishes to use the challenge competition mechanism and procedures for development. Challenges must also adhere to HHS-specific and federal-wide policies on use of challenges. The Secretary’s Delegation of Authority policy delegates authority to OPDIV and STAFFDIV heads, and this authority may be re-delegated to sub-agencies.