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Success Stories

The success of open innovation in public-sector prize competition hinges on the public’s participation.

Each participant, every solver adds to a pool of education, skill and life experience from which novel solutions are borne. Here, several challenge winners discuss how their participation in a federally sponsored challenge has helped advance their concept, research or business and the impact it has achieved in their communities, across government and in society at large.


  1. Breast Cancer Startup
    Agency: National Institutes of Health
    Winner: Sourav Sinha (Oncolinx Pharmaceuticals), Boston, Massachusetts
    In Brief: The Oncolinx team developed a business strategy to develop and market novel toxins that can be used in therapies that target drug-resistant tumors for less money and with fewer side effects. More: Breast Cancer


  2. City Software Development Kit Software Challenge Data Solutions
    Agency: U.S. Census Bureau
    Winner: Frank Schilder (Thomson Reuters), St. Paul, Minnesota
    In Brief: Accessibility Scores, an application that aims to satisfy the specific needs of people with disabilities, helping them easily find a place to live or travel in the state of Minnesota. More: City SDK


  3. DARPA Urban Challenge
    Agency: Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)
    Winner: Jesse Hurdus (TORC Robotics), Blacksburg, Virginia
    In brief: His Virginia Tech team answered DARPA’s call to develop an autonomous vehicle research and development program aimed at developing technology to keep warfighters off the battlefield and out of harm’s way. More: DARPA


  4. DEBUT Challenge
    Agency: National Institutes of Health (NIH)
    Winners: Abby Cohen and Andrew Brimer (Sparo Labs), St. Louis, Missouri
    Detail: As juniors at Washington University, they designed a solution to address critical needs in biomedicine, including technology for underserved populations and individuals with disabilities, as part this annual NIH challenge. More: DEBUT


  5. DESAL Prize
    Agency: United States Agency for International Development (USAID)
    Winners: Amos Winter and Natasha Wright (MIT), Cambridge, Massachusetts
    In Brief: In response to a USAID challenge to create cost-effective, energy-efficient, sustainable desalination technologies, an MIT team designed a solar-powered system that removes salt from water and uses ultraviolet rays to disinfect the water. More: DESAL Prize


  6. Equal Pay App
    Agency: Department of Labor
    Winner: Laquitta DeMerchant (Fuzion Apps), Sugar Land, Texas
    In Brief: She submitted a software solution in a White House-U.S. Department of Labor challenge to use publicly available labor data to create applications to build tools that promote equal pay. More: Equal Pay App


  7. FDA Food Safety Challenge
    Agency: Food and Drug Administration
    Winner: Michael Ladisch (Purdue Univ), West Lafayette, Indiana
    In Brief: The Purdue team devised faster detection techniques for Salmonella as part of FDA’s challenge to more quickly find disease-causing organisms in food, and especially Salmonella, in fresh produce. More: Food Safety


  8. NASA Lunar Lander
    Agency: NASA
    Winner: Sean Mahoney (Masten Space Systems), Mojave, California
    In Brief: His team aimed for the stars, demonstrating cost-effective vertical landing capability in a NASA competition to build and fly a rocket-powered vehicle that simulates the flight of a vehicle on the Moon. More: Lunar Lander


  9. National Clean Energy Business Plan
    Agency: Department of Energy
    Winner: Courtney Gras (Design Flux Technologies), Akron, Ohio
    In Brief: She spun off her winning technology, developed while at the University of Akron in response to a U.S. Department of Energy challenge to create new businesses that commercialize promising energy technologies developed at U.S. schools and the National Laboratories. More: Clean Energy


  10. Partnership for Freedom
    Agencies: Departments of Justice, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development
    Winner: Marnie Webb (Caravan Studios), San Francisco, California
    In Brief: Caravan Studios led the team that developed technology, as part of this joint-agency competition, to locate and immediately accommodate human trafficking survivors with shelter services. More: Partnership for Freedom


  11. Predict the Influenza Season
    Agency: Centers for Disease Control
    Winner: Jeffrey Shaman (Columbia Univ), New York, New York
    In Brief: His mathematical models used data from Google Flu Trends as well as CDC’s influenza-like illness data to help CDC predict the timing, peak and intensity of upcoming flu seasons. More: Flu Predictor


  12. Rebuild by Design
    Agency: Department of Housing and Urban Development
    Winners: Lauren Elachi, Pippa Brashear, Kate Orff and Gena Wirth (SCAPE Studio), New York, New York
    In Brief: This four-woman team’s concept for building resiliency along the South Shore of Staten Island garnered a $60 million, awarded to New York State Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery, for implementing their Living Breakwaters infrastructure project. More: Rebuild by Design


  13. Sunshot Catalyst
    Agency: Department of Energy
    Winner: Elena Lucas (UtilityAPI), Oakland, California
    In Brief: Her company developed a model to help solar companies accurately size solar energy systems for customers based on previous electricity usage, helping customers to expediently and cost-effective switch to solar. More: Solar Power


  14. Ultra High-Speed Apps
    Agency: National Institute of Justice
    Winner: Bruce Patterson (City of Ammon), Ammon, Idaho
    In Brief: His application demonstrated how existing camera systems, ultra-high-speed bandwidth, and gunshot detection hardware can work together to report gunfire immediately to first responders. More: Ultra High-Speed Apps


  15. Wendy Schmidt Oil Cleanup
    Agencies: Private-public partnership with Department of the Interior and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
    Winner: Donnie Wilson (Elastec), Carmi, Illinois
    In Brief: His company raised the bar for the recovering oil following a catastrophic spill. In 2011, his technology exceeded the current industry standards for oil rate recovery by more than three times. More: Oil Spill XPRIZE

One Discussion for "Success Stories"

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