Unlocking Scale: Challenge prizes and high-value innovation

Unlocking Scale: Challenge prizes and high-value innovation

Challenge prizes can play a unique and catalytic role in supporting the scaling stage of public-purpose innovation, unlocking social, economic, and environmental value. This innovation includes the green technologies (and other approaches) needed to tackle climate change and its impacts, alongside many other big societal risks that must be addressed at a “whole of system” level. 

Our new report with Challenge Works explores in detail how to scale the impact of challenge prizes, particularly in Low- and Middle- Income Countries (LMICs). 

Combining Challenge Works’ leadership in running innovation challenge prizes and incentivising progress and ideas with StateUp’s expertise in public-purpose technology, public policy, and behavioural economics, we find that challenge prizes employ a wide array of strategic levers that directly and indirectly tackle organisational, institutional and infrastructural barriers to scale, supporting diverse groups of innovators in developing and expanding  their solutions. To unlock their full impact and support system-level transformation, this type of open competition should be fully integrated within the broader innovation support ecosystem. 

“The increased visibility and reputation that scaling prize participants enjoy may act as a catalyst for entering new markets and influencing relevant sectoral policies and regulations.” Scaling Innovation, 2023

Read the report to explore a detailed case study and to learn:

  • How to differentiate between scaling “up”, “scaling ‘out”, and “scaling deep” 
  • How and why to set targets for scaling when designing a challenge prize
  • How to tackle barriers to scaling, including rewarding innovations that build infrastructure to further unlock scale

From Latin America to the Middle East, countries around the world are facing a growing range of complex public needs, including tackling new climate impacts. Scaling innovation will be one crucial approach to helping build resilience.

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To learn more about the report or StateUp’s practice area on measurement and evaluation of innovation programmes and policies, contact report lead author and StateUp Head of Research Dr. Eszter Czibor.