One of the most amazing things about the 21st Century wired world we live in is the capability of virtually anyone around the world to collaborate and work together to solve shared problems. Anyone can join in – researchers, business leaders, students, or just about anyone else with a desire to help make the world a better place for everybody.
Future-focused businesses and learning establishments are increasingly sponsoring competitions, challenging their participants to solve global problems and invent innovative new business practices. These challenges exemplify the spirit that has led the human race to take control of the planet – groups working together, across the globe, all competing for prizes being awarded for the best proposals.
Competition still brings out the best and brightest, and by aiming those talents at large problems, those financing these challenges can find ways to do the most good with their donations. It's a new approach to problem solving for the digital age, and it's growing in popularity.
So, I wanted to highlight five of my favorite sponsored innovation challenges going on today. These proposals demonstrate how groups of businesses and individuals can come together to inspire innovation and progress.
Five Challenges Melding Competition And Collaboration To Solve Global Problems
1 - Harvard i3
Harvard's goal for i3 can be summed up in just three words: “Imagine. Invent. Impact.” For six years, i3 has been granting funding to student start-ups, based on their quality in innovative thinking. Students are tasked to create a business plan in one of three sectors: commercial, social, or public.
The program itself is structured around a series of classes on a variety of current topics, including a range of lectures on legal, marketing, and venture capital issues. There's also a series of individual challenges along the way, such as delivering the best elevator pitch.
Among 2013's semi-finalists include proposals for:
- Improving HIV treatment adherence in developing nations
- A Cloud-based solution for STEM students to share computer resources
- Programs encouraging middle-school students to publish newspapers
- A cellphone text-based medical advisory service for low-income workers
i3 continues to showcase Harvard's best and brightest, and I'm excited to see what's in store!
2 - Dell Social Innovation Challenge
Dell's own Social Innovation Challenge exemplifies how cooperation and competition really can go hand-in-hand. They're creating a community of university students, faculty, and other experienced professionals to collaborate with each other on projects aimed at changing the world.
Dell's participants have a special eye towards problems facing the developing world, with a focus on projects aimed at bringing public sanitation and other basic services to as many people as possible. Then, by forming this community, it puts young minds directly in contact with mentors who can help make their dreams a reality.
3 - Samsung Smart App Challenge
On the other hand, showing that you can spur innovation while also looking towards your own company's interests, there's Samsung's Smart App Challenges. These competitions encourage Android developers to submit their best work utilizing key features of Samsung's Galaxy line of smartphones and tablets, giving out nearly $2 million in prizes and support.
Winners also get a lot of direct promotional support from Samsung, including prime channel placement, appearances at conferences, and the possibility of further investment from Samsung's VC arm.
It's a competition where everyone wins, and innovative young programmers get a chance to shine.
4 - The Sirius Programme
The Sirius Programme shows how these collaborative challenges can benefit host nations as well. Sirius is aimed at bringing the world's best young entrepreneurs to the UK, giving awards to global teams looking to start operations in Britain. In fact, the initiative is directly sponsored through a government-funded organization aimed specifically at bringing new talent into the country.
It just goes to show, it really is becoming a global competition for talent as well as jobs. Those with the skills could find great opportunities in different countries, through contests like these.
5 - The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's Grand Challenge
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is, of course, well-known for their billions in contributions aimed at improving lives in the developing world. One of the main focuses of their efforts is their Grand Challenge: A single open invitation to anyone in the world to solve a problem facing millions.
This year's challenge? Simply invent a better toilet.
With 2.5 billion people on the globe living without access to safe sanitation, and an estimated 1.5 million children dying each year from tainted water, it's hard to imagine a worthier project. The Foundation is giving $2 million to the worthiest proposals, in the hopes that developing nations can quickly overcome their sanitation issues.
Innocentive salutes these initiatives, because I know that as the world continues to become more closely-connected, people around the world will keep finding ways to spur innovation and solve global issues.