No organization has all of the answers, and the next big idea could be germinating out among the American public.
With this understanding, the Department of Energy launched a new crowdsourcing campaign that teams government labs with industry partners in search of new and exciting clean energy concepts.
It’s called JUMP, which stands for: Join the discussion; Unveil innovation; Motivate transformation; and Promote Tech2Mkt (technology to market).
Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) has issued several JUMP calls for innovation, which are open to a growing community of citizens.
One of those citizens is Benjamin Knopp, 31, of Richmond, Va.
Knopp is a building science consultant who used his expertise to win a JUMP competition last year with an idea for new water heater technology.
ORNL has now issued two new JUMP challenge. One is for more energy-efficient and environmentally friendly building envelopes, the part of the house that separates the inside from the outside — walls, doors, roofs, floors, windows, etc. The other is for innovative roofing solutions that minimize moisture.
Cash and priceless technical support await the winners.
With these new calls for innovation, PrizeWire reached out to Knopp to discuss his experience with JUMP and how it is helping him turn his idea into a marketable product.
PrizeWire: How did you hear about the JUMP challenge? Was this your first experience participating in an open crowdsourcing competition?
Benjamin Knopp: I was attending a Better Buildings Summit hosted by the Department of Energy when I heard about a similar crowdsourcing competition the day after it ended. I immediately subscribed to several Department of Energy email newsletters and later saw the initial JUMP program announcement through one of these newsletters. This was indeed my first experience with an open crowdsourcing competition and I was surprised at how simple and accessible it was
PW: In layman’s terms, what was the problem you were asked to confront and what was your solution?
BK: A.O. Smith [the water heater manufacturer] was looking for a new water heater technology that would allow them to pack more heat into a smaller space. I proposed a solution that incorporates a substance called a “phase change material” which allows a smaller water heater to deliver more hot water.
PW: How did the format/structure of the challenge help your innovation process?
BK: It was helpful to have a clean website to host the competition. Also, the informational webinars included a Q&A portion with the program administrators and corporate partners, allowing me to get further clarification right at the beginning.
PW: What developments have happened with your solution since/because of the challenge? How have you continued working with ORNL and/or A.O. Smith since the competition?
BK: I submitted a preliminary document to the U.S. patent office before posting my idea online, then later converted it into a full patent application. The financial support allowed me to purchase the tools, materials, and data logging equipment I needed to build the initial prototype. Every month since winning the competition I have had a conference call with ORNL and A.O. Smith for technical support.
PW: What did you do with the prize money?
BK: I used the prize money for the patent application fees and for renting a garage where I am building and testing the first prototype.
PW: What did the in-kind technical support from ORNL consist of? How crucial was it to your solution?
BK: The ongoing monthly calls with ORNL scientists and A.O. Smith engineers have played a key role in the steady progress towards proof of concept. I am grateful to be able to have my questions answered and get advice from these scientists and industry experts.
PW: Any advice you would give to someone considering taking part in a crowdsourcing event like this one?
BK: This is unique opportunity with a low barrier to entry. For anyone with a creative mind and entrepreneurial spirit, a crowdsourcing event like this is a chance to get the support you need to turn your ideas into reality.