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Informational Only

This challenge is no longer accepting new submissions.

GEAR Center Challenge

Scale new solutions to boldly tackle government's most complex management challenges.

General Services Administration

Total Cash Prizes Offered: $900,000
Type of Challenge: Ideas
Submission Start: 05/02/2019 12:00 PM ET
Submission End: 05/24/2019 5:00 PM ET

Winners Announced Sept. 10, 2019

GSA and OMB Announce Government Effectiveness Advanced Research Center Challenge Winners

Three groups received $300,000 each for innovative solutions to government challenges outlined in the President’s Management Agenda

"The GEAR Center challenge is a creative approach that engages the U.S. research and development system to help government adapt and improve in a rapidly changing world,” said GSA Administrator Emily Murphy.  “It also helped form new partnerships between different industries. These impressive winners will bring innovation led by our world class universities and enterprises to influence how the federal government performs."

See the complete list of winners and their entries.

Map of Gear Challenge Winners: Data and Evidence for Government and Academic Impact, Kansas City, MO; Cybersecurity Workforce Collaboration, McLean, VA; and Data for Impact, Boston, MA


The Federal government would benefit from better access to a well-integrated set of partners representing diverse industries and sectors to help resolve our toughest management problems. How can the government improve collaboration with leading private sector organizations, state and local governments, researchers, academic institutions, Federal government representatives, and the public? We cannot keep solving problems the same way and expect different results.

What is the GEAR Center?

As described in the Delivering Government Solutions in the 21st Century reform plan, A Government Effectiveness Advanced Research (GEAR) Center could bring together experts in disciplines ranging from economics, to computer science, to design thinking, in order to take a creative, data-driven, and interdisciplinary approach to new possibilities in how citizens and government interact. The GEAR Center can help government modernize to close the gap between government and private-sector services and capabilities. This may also lay the groundwork for where Federal operations and services need to be in five, 10, or 20 years.

What is the Challenge?

This competition challenges "Solvers" (participating individuals, teams or legal entities) to demonstrate the usefulness of a GEAR Center model by describing how this model would tackle one or more of the major challenges facing government described in the current President's Management Agenda (PMA). For example, how should the government approach the introduction of artificial intelligence into operations? How can agencies more efficiently create a clearing house for matching government needs to relevant project ideas and researchers? Are there new ways to better connect diverse expertise across geographies with Federal agencies who can put that expertise to work in support of their missions? How can Federal agencies better prepare and recruit the Federal workforce?

Before the government invests in a future GEAR Center, it is important to first explore the feasibility of creating these types of partnerships and if they can produce the kinds of quality approaches to problem solving the government needs. This competition is designed to reward the top models and execution strategies that will demonstrate a use case of a potential GEAR Center project by building on existing similar efforts.

As a first step in formulating the vision for the GEAR Center, in December 2018, the interagency GEAR Team shared the results of the Request for Information, in which over 40 entities submitted ideas for what a GEAR Center could be and how it might operate. Now, our goal is to recognize high-potential GEAR Center models by awarding prizes to those that can propose a workable GEAR Center model through a demonstration of how that model would creatively address one or more PMA-related challenges (pg. 4, 7-9).

What is the Prize?

GSA is offering up to three $300,000 cash prizes to the top solutions proposed, as well as selecting up to five additional winners for public recognition. We anticipate that each of the three cash awards will be for solutions that feasibly deliver results tackling different management challenges, but reserve the right to award up to three that propose solutions that address the same PMA-related challenge.

Solvers may propose GEAR Center solutions that would: 

  • Transform the way the Federal workforce is recruited, developed, reskilled or deployed.
  • Empower external users to access and use Government data for commercial and other public purposes.
  • Better connect Federal programs with a quantitative and qualitative understanding of the people they serve, and capture the voice of the customer in order to continuously improve Federal services.
  • Solvers can suggest their own ideas to address issues described in the President's Management Agenda.

On May 13, 2019 we hosted a webinar to answer questions and allow interested Solvers to connect with experts working on PMA challenges. The webinar was broadcast widely and is available online, along with answers to frequently asked questions: Webinar | Frequently Asked Questions




Up to three $300,000 grand prize winners and up to five recognition winners. The recognition winners will not receive a cash prize. Solvers (individuals, teams, or legal entities) may submit more than one project proposal and are eligible to receive an award for more than one proposal. However, each individual proposed solution to a management challenge should be structured for an individual $300,000 prize (e.g., a proposal is not eligible for a $600,000 or $900,000 award).


Eligibility to Participate

  • Each Competition Solver (individual, team, or legal entity) is required to register through email participation in Phase I as described in these competition rules. 
  • There shall be one Official Representative for each Competition Entry. The Official Representative must provide a name, email address, and affirm that he or she has read and consents to be governed by the Competition Rules. 
  • As determined by GSA, any violation of these rules will be grounds for disqualification from the Competition. 
  • Multiple individuals and/or legal entities may collaborate as a Solver team to submit a single entry, in which case the designated Official Representative will be responsible for meeting all entry and evaluation requirements. 
  • Participation is subject to all U.S. Federal, state, local, and country of residence laws and regulations.
  • Solvers must not be suspended, debarred, or otherwise excluded from doing business with the Federal Government. An individual or entity that is determined to be on the GSA Excluded Parties List ( is ineligible to participate. Individuals entering on behalf of or representing a company, institution or other legal entity are responsible for confirming that their entry does not violate any policies of that company, institution or legal entity.  
  • As a condition of participation, all participants must agree to indemnify the Federal Government against third-party claims for damages arising from or related to competition activities. Entrants are not required to obtain liability insurance or demonstrate financial responsibility in order to participate in the competition. By entering the contest, Solvers agree to hold GSA harmless from all legal and administrative claims to include associated expenses that may arise from any claims related to their entry or its use.
  • By participating in the Competition, each Solver (individual, team, or legal entity​) warrants that he or she is the sole author or owner of, or has the right to use, any copyrightable works that the Submission comprises, that the works are wholly original with the Solver (or is an improved version of an existing work that the Solver has sufficient rights to use and improve), and that the Submission does not infringe any copyright or any other rights of any third party of which Solver is aware. To receive an award, Solvers will not be required to transfer their intellectual property rights to GSA, but Solvers must grant to the Federal government a nonexclusive license to practice their solutions and use the materials that describe them. This license must grant to the United States government a nonexclusive, non-transferable, irrevocable, paid-up, royalty-free license to practice or have practiced for or on behalf of the United States throughout the world any invention made by the Solvers that covers the Submission. In addition, the license must grant to the Federal government and others acting on its behalf, a fully paid, nonexclusive, irrevocable, worldwide license in any copyrightable works that the Submission comprises, including the right to reproduce, prepare derivative works, distribute copies to the public, and perform publicly and display publicly said copyrightable works. To participate in the Challenge, each Solver must warrant that there are no legal obstacles to providing the above-referenced nonexclusive licenses of Solver’s rights to the Federal government.
  • Federal grantees may not use Federal funds to develop competition solutions unless consistent with the purpose of their grant award. 
  • Federal contractors may not use Federal funds from a contract to develop competition applications or to fund efforts in support of a competition entry.
  • Participants may not be a Federal entity or Federal employee acting within the scope of their employment. Non-GSA, non-OMB Federal employees acting in their personal capacities should consult with their respective agency ethics officials to determine whether their participation in this Competition is permissible.
  • Any other individuals or legal entities involved with the design, production, execution, distribution or evaluation of the GEAR Center Prize Competition are not eligible to participate.

Eligibility to Win a Cash Prize

To be eligible for a cash prize:

  • A Solver (whether an individual, team, or legal entity), through one Official Representative, must have registered to participate and complied with all of the requirements under section 3719 of title 15, United States Code and the competition rules.
  • At the time of Entry, the Official Representative (individual or team lead, in the case of a group project) must be age 18 or older and a U.S. citizen or permanent resident of the United States or its territories.
  • In the case of a private entity, the business shall be incorporated in and maintain a primary place of business in the United States or its territories.
  • Entrants in this competition agree, as a condition for winning a cash prize, to complete and submit all requested winner verification and payment documents to GSA within three (3) business days of formal notification. Failure to return all required verification documents by the date specified in the notification may be a basis for disqualification of the winning entry.
  • A Solver shall not be deemed ineligible because the Solver consulted with Federal employees or used Federal facilities in preparing its submission to the GEAR Prize Competition if the Federal employees and facilities are made available to all Solvers on an equitable basis.

Interested Solvers who are eligible to participate but not to win a cash prize are encouraged to enter the GEAR Competition. The participation of these Solvers will be displayed on the GEAR website and in other GSA publications (such as press releases) in the same manner as the performance obtained by Solvers who are eligible to win cash prizes.

Terms and Conditions

  • A competition entry constitutes an agreement to adhere to the competition rules and terms and conditions set forth by the contest sponsor, GSA.
  • Solvers must meet the eligibility requirements described in the Eligibility section, to participate and/or win a cash prize.
  • Any Solvers or entry found in violation of any rule will be disqualified at GSA’s sole discretion.
  • Each individual or Solver team certifies, through entry to the contest, that the entry is his/her own original, creative work and does not violate or infringe upon the creative work of others, as protected under applicable intellectual property law.
  • By entering the contest, the Solvers agree to hold GSA harmless from all legal and administrative claims to include associated expenses that may arise from any claims related to their entry or its use.
  • All evaluation panel decisions are final and may not be appealed.
  • Winners are responsible for all taxes or other fees connected with the prize received.
  • GSA reserves the right for any reason, including but not limited to an insufficient number of qualified entries, to modify or cancel the competition at any time during the duration of the competition.
  • All registered participants agree that they, their heirs and estates agree to assume any and all risks and waive claims against the Federal Government and its related entities, except in the case of willful misconduct, for any injury, death, damage, or loss of property, revenue, or profits, whether direct, indirect, or consequential, arising from their participation in a prize competition, whether the injury, death, damage, or loss arises through negligence or otherwise. 
  • By participating in the competition, each Solver agrees to comply with and abide by all GEAR Center Challenge rules, terms, and conditions, and the decisions of GSA and/or the individual judges, which shall be final and binding in all respects.
  • Entrants and Awardees may be invited to present at an event in late Summer 2020.

Judging Criteria

Phase I

  • 20%: Project Innovation – Does the project seek to shift current paradigms by utilizing novel approaches, methodologies, services or interventions to create a changed environment? Is the solution one that could only be developed by an innovative, outside-the-wall-of-government way? Is your proposal novel in a broad sense?
  • 20%: Project Relevance – Does the proposed project seem to address a relevant management challenge and deliver a usable solution?
  • 20%: Project Partnership Model – Is the project collaborative in its approach to the problem or issue and/or proposed solution? Is a player new to problem solving in the Federal space represented? A successful proposal will involve team members and stakeholder engagement and support from across sectors, industries, and affiliations.
  • 20%: Project Impact – Does the project have a clear deliverable(s) for a one year timeline, and a theory of change to longer-term outcome measures? Will the government obtain value from investing in this project?
  • 20%: Project Feasibility - Is the proposal reasonable, resourceful, and feasible? A successful proposal will improve upon existing initiatives, strategies, and networks.

Phase II and Phase III

  • 20%: One-Year Project Plan – Does the proposed project solution seem innovative and useful to the Federal government? Does it clearly articulate the scope of the first year project and how this could broaden over time?
  • 20%: One-Year Project Impact – Has the Solver presented or demonstrated the feasibility of measuring the success of both the one-year project and longer term model? Is the data used to collect these measures publicly available or potentially accessible through existing administrative data?
  • 20%: Solver Capacity and Potential GEAR Center Model – Has the Solver demonstrated a strong likelihood of success for delivering both this first-year GEAR Center project and a potential longer term model? Are there existing efforts, initiatives, and capabilities that lend themselves to their proposed model and project? Would participants be diverse across a number of different parameters? Would the team together bring a unique skill set and perspective to the Federal government?
  • 20%: Potential GEAR Center Model Innovation -  Does the project propose a model of collaboration and problem solving that is new and innovative to the Federal government?
  • 20%: Potential GEAR Center Model Sustainability – Does it have a reasonable expectation of future Federal government involvement? Does it have a funding model that’s not reliant exclusively upon Federal project funding?

How To Enter

Details on How to Submit Your Solutions Across Each Phase Are Provided Below:

The competition will run through three phases. In the first, Solvers will be evaluated on their proposal (including any proposal to scale or grow existing initiatives) to deliver a relevant solution to a PMA-related challenge. The second phase will evaluate invited semi-finalists to share a more in-depth project plan and how this could be executed, as well as how this project supports a longer-term GEAR Center vision. In the third phase, finalists will be invited to present their proposals to a panel of Federal executives through 60-minute virtual meetings.

In both phases requiring documents, entries must consist of PDF files with font size no smaller than 11-point Arial. All submissions must be in English. The participants must not use GSA's or OMB&'s logos or official seals in the submissions and must not otherwise give an appearance of Federal government endorsement.

Phase I: Project Proposal, Opens May 2nd – Deadline to Submit by May 24th at 5:00 PM EST

Solvers submit a no more than two-page proposal (inclusive of any visual representations or graphics), plus the cover sheet specified below, providing the following information:

Problem Statement: Describe the PMA-related challenge(s) that your project tackles and any relevant background information. Address the impact and innovation potential of your GEAR Center solution given the status quo.

  • Project Summary: What will your project do over a one year period? How does this align to the vision of the GEAR Center (as described on pp 112-114 of the PDF, Delivering Government Solutions in the 21st Century: Reform Plan and Reorganization Recommendations)?
  • Anticipated Project Results: How can success be measured after one year? How can you use existing administrative data rather than new data collections? Who will ultimately benefit?  
  • Ideal Team to Implement the Proposal: Describe the core team and partners or types of partners that would make for a successful project bringing diversity of industry, affiliation, geography, etc. (important: please write this in a way such that we can redact any organizational names for review).
  • Resource Requirements: Describe what might be needed to implement your GEAR Center proposal (resources, stakeholder buy-in, other requirements, etc.). Address the feasibility of your idea. Note that the solution must be able to be delivered within current Federal operations and existing relationships - this award does not enable new Federal authorities or privileged access.

During Phase I review process, the concept paper will be redacted for both applicant and any specific organizational partner names referenced (versus broader categories of organizational partners), and reviewed by Federal evaluators screened to avoid conflicts of interest.

Submission deadline: 5:00 PM ET May 24th, 2019

Email your submissions to

  • Title the email subject line "GEAR Center Phase I Proposal"
  • Email Sender (person and email address) must be Official Representative/person of contact for the team
  • Following documents should be attached:
    • Proposal cover sheet as PDF
    • Proposal document as PDF
  • In the Proposal cover sheet, include:
    • Title of submission
    • 1 sentence summary of PMA-related challenge that the solution tackles
    • Solver Official Representative (person of contact) contact information (full name, email, phone) 
    • Name of organization(s) and all team member(s) submitting entry
    • Industry affiliations (ex. Academia, health care, consulting) of each organization / team member

On May 13, 2019 we hosted a webinar to answer questions and allow interested Solvers to connect with experts working on PMA challenges. The webinar was broadcast widely and is available online, along with answers to frequently asked questions: Webinar | Frequently Asked Questions

Notification date of advancement of Semi-Finalists to Phase II: June 3rd by 5PM ET

Phase II: Project and GEAR Center Plan, Opens June 3rd – Deadline to Submit by June 28th at 5:00 PM EST

Up to 20 Solvers from Phase I will be invited to submit a no more than ten-page plan (inclusive of any visual representations or graphics), plus cover page, providing the following information:

  • Project Plan: Provide a more detailed explanation of a proposed first year GEAR Center project and how it will tackle the PMA challenge(s) your team selected in terms of milestones and activities
  • Project Feasibility and Inclusivity of Disciplines Referenced in Delivering Government Solutions in the 21st Century reform plan: Provide evidence of capabilities and initiatives occurring in this space by Solver partners; demonstrate ability to deliver on the project by leveraging existing efforts and networks
  • GEAR Center Model: How does your GEAR Center year one proposal support a longer term vision of how the GEAR Center could operate? Describe the current state of your model. How will the project involve diverse partners and stakeholders? How would you expect the Federal government to be involved?
  • GEAR Center Impact: What are longer term outcome measures of your GEAR Center model? What is the theory of change of your one year GEAR Center proposal to deliver this impact?
  • GEAR Center Sustainability: What is the sustainable funding model for your GEAR Center model, and is it reliant upon exclusively Federal funding? How will diverse collaborators continue to be brought to the table and be interested in remaining involved?

Submission deadline: 5:00 PM ET on June 28th, 2019

Email your submissions to

  • Title the email subject line "GEAR Center Phase II Proposal"
  • Email Sender (person and email address) must be Official Representative/ person of contact for the team. The same email address MUST be used as was used for the initial entry.
  • Following documents must be attached:
    • Plan cover sheet as PDF
    • Plan document as PDF
  • In the Plan cover sheet, include:
    • Title of submission
    • 1 sentence summary of PMA-related challenge solution tackles
    • Solver team leader (primary point of contact) contact information (full name, email, phone) 
    • Name of organization(s) submitting entry
    • Industry affiliations (ex. Academia, health care, consulting) of each partner

Q+A Webinar for semi-finalists: June 17, 2019 (details will be posted on this site). Semi-finalists will receive instructions on how to submit questions to be answered on the webinar in advance and a FAQ will be summarized and posted after this date. While only semi-finalists will participate in the June 17th webinar, the live event will be made publicly available on

Notification date of advancement of Finalists to Phase III: July 12th by 5PM ET

Phase III: July 22nd – July 26th  

Up to a total of 10 Solvers from Phase II will be invited to present to a panel of Federal executives through 60-minute virtual presentations. The purpose of this presentation is to provide an opportunity for evaluators to ask important questions about your plan and gain a deeper understanding of the innovation and feasibility of the project along with the ability of the Solver team to deliver. The format will be a 60 minute virtual presentation including up to 20 minutes for uninterrupted presentation by the Solver, and 40 minutes for questions and discussion with the panel.

Date awardees announced: September 2019