The White House wants to reward you for good ideas

Expect more federal agencies to hold contests -- and offer prizes -- in the name of innovation, the White House signaled last week.

As part of President Barack Obama's open government directive, the White House is encouraging agencies like NASA and the Department of Energy to "increase the use of prizes and challenges as tools for promoting open government, innovation, and other national priorities," according to a policy memo from the Office of Management and Budget, released last Monday.

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Moreover, the White House plans to establish "a web-based platform for prizes and challenges within 120 days," the memo notes.

"This platform will provide a forum for agencies to post problems and invite communities of problem solvers to suggest, collaborate on, and deliver solutions," according to the White House, which added it would soon task the General Services Administration with the primary responsibility of managing those challenges.

The White House's perhaps unorthodox emphasis on contests to promote innovation is one part of the Obama administration's latest push for more public-private collaboration.

The memo released Monday details a host of projects already improved through federal contests -- from vehicle technology ideas submitted to NASA, to low-cost, highly efficient lighting devices proposed to the Department of Energy, to less tech-oriented solutions pitched to the State Department's diplomatic missions.

Consequently, the White House hopes to expand that process manifestly to more federal agencies in the coming months. And with it, the Obama administration is ordering federal officials to offer better prizes to encourage participation.

"A prize should not be an end in itself, but one means within a broader strategy for spurring private innovation and change," according to the OMB memo. "Furthermore, agencies should plan appropriately for all stages of prize development and, where permissible, consider partnering with other entities that might administer, support, or catalyze the prize."

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