In this phase you will analyze and document the results, outcomes and impact of your incentivized competition. You will evaluate avenues for remaining engaged with your solvers as well as and next steps for high-potential solutions, whether moving them into an "accelerator" or exploring other channels for transitioning prize solutions to procurement.
Solutions resulting from a challenge could serve a number of purposes including use by your agency, use by a broad public or potential commercialization by competitors. Depending on the rules of a challenge, you may need to make solutions available in the broadest possible way to facilitate reuse or support to others who are investigating similar problems. One practice is to deploy all artifacts of the solution to an open-source repository (such as GitHub) that is broadly available. If solutions will be integrated into existing processes or products, consider continuing your engagement with the solvers. Intellectual property rights are a key consideration; if you don't obtain the rights as part of the initial challenge, a plan to obtain license to use the solutions may be needed. Also, the pathway to adoption for solutions resulting from a challenge may not be immediately clear. For example, ideation challenge results may take time to be socialized, and demand for implementation of those ideas may take time to grow with user communities.
In the "Continue Community Engagement" step, you thought about how to engage the people that participated in your challenge in order to continue to cultivate a community of innovators. In this step it is important to think about how the solutions that came from those communities will be scaled or implemented—sometimes the solver has no role in the implementation of a solution within an agency. It is good practice to think strategically about managing both solvers and solutions.
It's time to reflect on the impact you really wanted to have. For some, simply running the prize, engaging others or advocating for the issue may be enough. But for many, it's critical to continue on the path that takes your innovation from a winning idea to actual use. Finding an innovation is just the first step—applying it to the problem, measuring its impact and helping scale it are equally as important. Innovations follow an unpredictable path from development to implementation, but it's possible to anticipate the actions necessary to make sure they are properly resourced along the way. These actions include
- understanding intended markets and developing product-market fit;
- identifying and securing customers or users;
- building internal systems suitable for the innovation to scale;
- accessing finance or funding;
- building a quality team with technical, regulatory and business expertise; and
- operationalizing the development of products or projects and creating or identifying distribution channels as applicable.
Think about who is critical to the application of your innovation. If it's for internal use, who do you need to engage inside your agency? If it's for external use, to what groups should you highlight the solutions? Should you have considered partnering with them from the beginning? Partnerships, whether interagency, intergovernmental or public-private, are a great way to ensure that solutions are managed to maximize impact and return on investment. Partners may be able to provide greater exposure to funding opportunities or help provide opportunities for piloting or adoption. Partnerships can also create pathways to apply solutions to different domains.
If your agency seeks to procure the solutions from your challenge, you need to work with your procurement team to acquire them. There are many actions you can take to help justify a procurement:
- Leverage the full and open
competition of your
challenge to justify a
- Consider the results of the challenge, as stipulated in the solicitation, as part of the offeror's proposal and as a major factor in contract award evaluation.
- Consider making challenge results a factor in whether a proposal proceeds in the acquisition process.
- Think of the results of a full and open challenge as an oral presentation, which could be used to substitute for or augment a vendor's proposal for a follow-on acquisition.
- Integrate challenge
participation into past
- Use challenge outcomes as a source of past performance information to establish the relevance and currency of the offeror to meet the specified need and indicate the offeror's ability to perform based on the source and context of how the proposed solution meets the agency's need.
Evaluate how the Government Purpose Rights in intellectual property obtained as part of the challenge terms and conditions may influence the procurement.
Acceleration is about equipping high-potential innovators with the strategies, knowledge, capacities, relationships and other tools to achieve their goals. When done well, acceleration support enables innovators to achieve goals faster, to make rapid course corrections when failure is encountered and to build on success to grow their innovation further.
Awardees of your organization's challenges could be developing and testing new innovations, whether as a venture or a new program within established organizations. Deploying new innovations can be an unpredictable and long process but if these efforts do not achieve a certain level of success with their initial grant funding or start-up capital, they may cease to exist and awardees may be unable to take their innovations and learning forward. Acceleration can help ensure that innovations move quickly along the optimal path, whether they fail or succeed.
A growing number of organizations, known as accelerators or sometimes incubators, exist to provide acceleration services to new ventures in a cohort-based format. Accelerators that focus on different stages of ventures, geographies and sectors can be engaged as program partners (offering their services in-kind) or as service providers (being paid for their services directly by your program or by the innovators themselves). Accelerators offer a wide variety of services and have varying requirements for participation. Carefully consider who the best organizations are based on the goals of your program and the needs of innovators. A program may design and implement acceleration activities by choosing to work with an existing accelerator in a number of ways. Program teams should undertake a comprehensive evaluation of potential accelerators before deciding whom to work with on implementing all or part of the planned acceleration activities. Consider the following criteria:
- Geography: For what part of the world is the accelerator equipped to support organizations?
- Model: Is the accelerator in-person, virtual or both?
- Sector: Does the accelerator specialize in a sector that is appropriate for this program or cohort of awardees?
- Expertise: Does the accelerator specialize in or have comparative advantage in an area that relates to the needs of innovators, in terms of training modules or relationships to mentors and advisors?
- Services: Does the accelerator provide training, mentorship, partnership brokerage, co-location and funding?
- Stage: Does the accelerator work with organizations at the same stage of development as the cohort in question?
- Nonprofit/For-Profit: Does the accelerator explicitly or implicitly focus on for-profit ventures, or is it prepared to support any kind of organization?
- Program Type/Duration: Does the accelerator's specialized program align with the availability of innovators to participate and the duration of the program's support to the innovator cohort?
- Customization: What degree of customization in services is the accelerator willing to provide?
It may not be possible to find an existing accelerator that has services for some or all of the needs of your program-supported innovators. Also complicating matters, some accelerators run their own selection and due diligence processes and may not be willing or able to take in the cohort without additional review.
- Transition Your Prize Solutions to Procurements – If your goals and outcomes include the acquisition of winning solutions, then work with your contracting office to transition from a challenge to a follow-on procurement. To award a procurement, you'll need to work through many of the following issues:
- Use a Follow-on Sole Source Procurement after the Challenge – If you anticipate a sole source procurement after the challenge, then consider announcing that to solvers prior to the competition. If full and open competitive procedures were used during the challenge, consult with your contracting office to determine if these may be justification for a sole source award predicated upon the fulfillment of competitive procedures. If the intent of the challenge is to identify a highly unique or specialized solution, then your contracting office can determine if a sole source justification for only one responsible source can be considered (see FAR 6.302-1 Only One Responsible Source and No Other Supplies or Services Will Satisfy Agency Requirements).
- Integrate Challenge Participation into Technical or Past Performance Evaluations for Competitive Procurements – Work with your contracting office to determine if you can consider the results of the challenge as part of a solver's technical proposal and as a major factor in contract award evaluation. The results of your challenge might also be considered as analogous to oral presentations in that the results could be used to substitute or augment a solver's technical proposal for a follow-on acquisition. If using an Advisory Multi-Step Process, your contracting office can determine if the solver's evaluated results can be considered as part of the "information submitted" for invitation to participate in the next step of an acquisition. Finally, your contracting office can consider using challenge participation and the associated evaluation process and supporting documentation as past performance for the follow-on FAR-based acquisition.
- Evaluate How the Government Purpose Rights in IP Obtained as Part of the Prize Challenge Terms and Conditions (see Step 2.3) May Influence the Procurement as GFI – If intellectual property (IP) was obtained as part of the challenge, work with your agency counsel and contracting office to consider what is required to transition it to another program office or third-party working under a government contract for a related purpose.