The Power of Showcase Challenges – Lion’s Den and Beyond

Posted by Michael Franklin on Apr 12, 2016 8:33:46 AM

As comes spring, so comes a successful conclusion to another year of Lion’s Den Challenge – the flagship start-up competition for staff and students at King’s College London, which has been run in partnership with InnoCentive over the past five years. Following a six-month programme of workshops, networking events and mentorship opportunities to help students validate and develop their business ideas, winners were announced at the awards ceremony in March, which was held in the grand setting of the House of Lords in London, UK.

This type of Challenge is less about finding point solutions to innovation problems. Instead it is about sourcing and showcasing great ideas and organizations – bringing them to you rather than the other way around.

InnoCentive has a long history of running these “Showcase Challenges”. The Global Security Challenge, an annual Showcase Challenge with a different theme each year, was run over six year period by a predecessor of InnoCentive. Sponsored by US government departments and large international corporations, these groups were more accustomed to dealing with large businesses as tech providers. However the Global Security Challenge gave them an opportunity to connect with leading startups and SMEs from around the world: instead of the sponsors needing to take on extensive and expensive tech scouting programmes, a Showcase Challenge allowed the talent to come to them, and then through the competition structure, drive ever-increasing attainment levels. More recent examples InnoCentive have run include the UK Trade & Investment Sirius Programme, MasterCard Foundation “Clients at the Centre” Prize & Lumina Foundation’s Social Innovation Prize for Postsecondary Learning.

Showcase Challenges have diversified and developed over the years, but the central tenant remains the same – using crowdsourcing competitions to attract start-ups, SMEs or other NGOs to you, rather than having to find them yourself. However, by tailoring InnoCentive’s Challenge Driven Methodology, Showcase Challenges move beyond just an open call for business proposals. The use of robust application requirements, judging criteria and evaluation procedures gives a structure that allows for a more transparent, fair and objective competition. Showcase Challenges are not grant applications or open calls for business plans, but instead use the crowdsourcing principles that work so successfully in expediting technical innovations, to instead drive higher engagement, attainment and relevancy in business competitions.

The other key aspect of Showcase Challenges that gives real benefit to clients, is the publicity that comes from not only running the Challenge, but then also having associated marketing activities and culminating in a live pitching event. Awareness is firstly raised by highlighting the issue that the Challenge is tackling – whether that be student entrepreneurs or businesses providing micro-finance in the developing world. Once traction is gained, the contest can then be leveraged to attract other industry leaders, government representatives, media and others. These actions all help raise the profile of the competition, the issue, the applicants, and the sponsor. Over the six years that the Global Security Challenge ran, it became internationally recognised as an industry-leading event and programme – using high-profile Challenges can be an innovative way to position a company as a pioneer within a sector.

For those organisations that wish to move beyond purely technical solutions and instead find innovative ways to connect with start-ups, SMEs and businesses that otherwise may have never have come onto their radar, Showcase Challenges are one way this can be achieved to great effect. If you’d like to find out more about running your own Showcase Challenge, please feel free to get in contact here: You can read more about Lion’s Den Challenge and this year’s winners here.

Topics: Innovation Insights, Challenges

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