Looking back at the year in open innovation

Looking back at the year in open innovation

Health, education, science, and technology initiatives in 2020

Over the past decade, we have designed and produced large-scale open innovation programs that seek viable solutions to complex and pressing problems on behalf of federal agencies, nonprofit foundations, and the private sector. But 2020 has been a year like no other. Today, we’re looking back the past 12 months and taking stock of our year in open innovation.

In early 2020, we concluded our work on the Opioid Detection Challenge, a $1.55 million global prize competition from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T). The challenge, designed and produced by Luminary Labs through a contract with the NASA Tournament Lab, sought nonintrusive tools and technologies for rapidly detecting illicit opioids in the international mail. In July, challenge winner IDSS entered into a contract with the government to pilot its advanced threat algorithms at international mail facilities.

Early this year, we launched CTE CyberNet, a professional development initiative to strengthen cybersecurity education in America’s high schools. The U.S. Department of Education is collaborating with other federal agencies to increase the number of career and technical education (CTE) teachers who can effectively prepare students for cybersecurity education and careers. The first cohort of CTE CyberNet teachers entered local professional development academies this summer.

In February, we began tracking open innovation programs — from challenges and hackathons to open data projects and open-source hardware — addressing the coronavirus pandemic. In March, we shared the list with our network and launched CovidX with support from Schmidt Futures. By July, the CovidX OI Index included more than 300 initiatives.

Also in March, six innovator teams joined Phase 3 of MagQuest, a $2.1 million competition to advance how we measure Earth’s magnetic field. With MagQuest, the National-Geospatial Intelligence Agency is accelerating novel approaches to geomagnetic data collection for the World Magnetic Model (WMM). In October, MagQuest awarded $900,000 to Phase 3 winners. The results of MagQuest will inform NGA’s acquisition strategy for a WMM global magnetic field data collection capability, with an expected procurement that can provide operational capacity by 2027.

In July, we launched the Rural Tech Project on behalf of the U.S. Department of Education. The $600,000 challenge invited high schools and local educational agencies to propose technology education programs that use competency-based distance learning. The challenge received proposals from entrants in 34 states; a finalist announcement is coming soon.

In August, CTE Mission: CubeSat launched. This Ed Prizes challenge brings space missions to students by inviting high schools to design and build small satellite prototypes. Last week, the U.S. Department of Education announced five finalists. During Phase 2, which runs from January to May 2021, the finalists will have access to expert mentorship and additional virtual resources as they build CubeSat prototypes and plan flight events.

In September, we launched the Rethink Adult Ed Challenge, a $750,000 U.S. Department of Education competition to advance pre-apprenticeships. The challenge asked adult education providers to design programs that better prepare learners for apprenticeships and beyond; Stage 1 submissions closed last month.

The KidneyX Artificial Kidney Prize launched in October. This multiphase competition from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the American Society of Nephrology (ASN), is accelerating the development of artificial kidneys toward human clinical trials. Initial phases offer up to $10 million in prizes.

And to round out the year: In November, we launched the first round of the KidneyX COVID-19 Kidney Care Challenge. The $300,000 challenge seeks replicable frontline solutions for improving kidney care and reducing risk during the coronavirus pandemic. Round 2 opened for submissions yesterday; Round 1 winners will be announced soon.

We’re planning more announcements for early 2021, as well as an in-depth analysis of COVID-19 open innovation efforts and recommendations for future impact-oriented open innovation programs.

Do you know experts and innovators working in health, education, space, science, or technology? Invite them to subscribe to our open innovation alerts so they’ll be the first to know about new competitions, accelerators, events, and more. We send email alerts only when we have news to share — usually no more than once a month. Our latest open innovation alert included year-end announcements, along with additional opportunities from our extended network — including NASA, Schmidt Futures, BARDA DRIVe, Data & Society, Newlab, and New Jersey’s Office of Innovation.