Custom Challenges

Run unique innovation competitions with our proven and adaptable methodology and platform.


InnoCentive’s Custom Challenge Programs enable you to develop high-profile Challenge Programs and innovation competitions, uniquely tailored to your needs, for solving big problems, building awareness, and encouraging breakthrough innovations.



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Whether you have a clear design that you would like to be planned and executed by our team or you are at the early stages of conceptualizing a large-scale Challenge Program, InnoCentive’s design expertise can help make your program a reality, from the first concept brainstorm through the final award ceremony.

Categories of Custom Challenge Programs

Grand Challenges

A Grand Challenge focuses on a large problem, often calling for radical innovations and breakthrough solutions that will have a significant impact on global well-being. It offers big, publicity-fostering financial rewards and ambitiously strives to revolutionize a whole industry or incentivize the creation of exciting new markets. In this way, Grand Challenges aim to focus considerable attention on a specific issue and mobilize a motivated community of problem solvers. This type of Challenge tends to involve some form of experimental testing of submitted solutions, ensuring that awarded innovations have objectively proven their worth in practice and under rigorous conditions.

Showcase Challenges

Showcase Challenges are targeted and developed within a broad subject area or discipline (e.g., security, energy). In this way, they are distinct from other Challenges run by InnoCentive. Innovators are encouraged to submit original proposals that fit within the overarching theme of the Challenge, and a panel of expert judges is convened to assess the submissions and allocate rewards according to pre-specified assessment criteria. The awards are generally announced during major, publicity-generating events, allowing solvers the opportunity to pitch their innovation solutions and field questions from the judging panel. Showcase Challenges are often aimed at entrepreneurs, startup businesses, or pioneering small- and medium-sized enterprises, giving them an opportunity to promote their businesses and enhance the profile and credibility of their innovations.

Where you need to have a particular part of a Challenge Program completed, but not a complete Custom Challenge Program, InnoCentive can still add value through our Support & Advisory Services. We can provide you with high-quality input at any stage of your program (e.g., during design, planning, or execution). This includes high-level program design consultancy, design with or without research, event planning and management, and marketing. These elements are themselves configurable to your needs, building on InnoCentive’s experience in a range of disciplines and industry sectors. InnoCentive’s Premium Challenges can also be used as part of a Custom Challenge Program.

Why Run a Custom Challenge Program?

Custom Challenge Programs focus on high-value targets and often aim to tackle serious market failures or remove barriers or bottlenecks that may be holding up progress in a certain area or industry. Exposing a problem or Challenge to the world, and offering a sizeable reward (typically $100,000 or more) to individuals/groups that can address or even solve the problem, is an effective way to raise awareness about an issue. When necessary, Challenge Programs can be structured in stages, consisting of many incremental Challenges that guide the innovation community toward systematically tackling the overall problem. Return on Investment is a priority for any organization, and it’s important to see this proactive exploration as an investment in the future of the company. Custom Challenge Programs aim to maximize returns from the sponsor’s financial investment, as well as reduce their risk, since Solvers collectively invest considerable sums in pursuit of the prize. These innovation competitions have the potential to yield long-term dividends in the form of business changes and opportunities.

The Process Itself Has Benefits

Custom Challenge Programs seek to improve the innovation system within a given sector by providing a forum and focus for a Solver community, fostering collaboration, cooperation, and networking among innovators and other key stakeholders, and improving information-sharing, knowledge transfer, and communication within the community. Launching a Custom Challenge Program can raise the profile of the program sponsor and its cause, helping to establish thought leadership within an industry or around an important issue. And for foundations, these programs are effective fundraising vehicles. Because Custom Challenge Programs tend to demand radical thinking and breakthrough innovations, it is especially important to attract new and original ideas from outside traditional sectors. These programs often make an extra effort to engage new innovators and offer sub-prizes that reward technology-transfer from external sectors. Custom Challenge Programs can be used to open up whole new markets or new areas of innovation, as radical advances open up fresh avenues of commercial opportunity and enable a diverse range of sequential innovations.

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Custom Challenges Datasheet

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