It is an exciting time for the Eco Challenge Series, the partnership between Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and open innovation company InnoCentive. With our first two challenges closed, we are on the verge of awarding our first prizes for eco-innovation. EDF put up two prizes to solve pressing environmental challenges in agriculture and we’re working with companies who will put up their own eco-challenges for prizes.
Challenge 1: Ideation
The Ideation, or brainstorming challenge received 42 submissions representing 185 pages of creative ideas on how we can solve our nitrogen pollution problem from farming practices. Like with most ideation challenges, we were looking for out-of-the-box ideas that could help us expand our universe of potential solutions. From this wealth of knowledge, we tentatively selected three winners, who are now being verified by InnoCentive. If all goes well, we will award the $7,500 prize purse with the next week and will begin exploring opportunities to pilot test the ideas on actual farms.
That’s right—people will get to walk away with a nice reward for providing the kindling for a potential environmental breakthrough that will help our scientists and many experts throughout the agricultural industry protect our health and our planet. In addition, the prizes don’t have to be very large to leverage the creativity of the crowd to solve. Win-win-win, right?
Because it isn’t straightforwardly obvious, it’s worth explaining why a $7500 prize may be enough to leverage breakthrough innovation. This is true for at least two reasons:
- First, award amounts can be smaller because less is needed to incentivize individual participation, especially with the feel-good reward of helping the environment.
- Secondly, especially for Ideation, many of these ideas either exist already, or need someone to help bring about an “ah-ha” moment, they aren’t ideas that need to be drawn from scratch. The trick is tapping into that moment.
In the coming weeks, we will be engaging with the solvers to see whether they can work with us to implement the ideas as pilots, and continue to improve upon them.
Challenge 2: Theoretical
Were in the midst of evaluating the 14 submissions we received for the more in-depth Theoretical Challenge on developing a low-cost, simplified logistics method to enable farmers to gather real-time feedback on the progress of their crops. It’s important to point out that the stakes and the rewards are higher for this Eco-Challenge. Instead of a $7,500 prize for the best solution, Solvers are competing to win a $15,000 prize for a Theoretical Challenge requiring a white-paper like submission with more detail and proof. EDF will determine whether any of the submissions satisfy all requirements, and if so, a prize will be rewarded.
We’ll update you again on the outcome.