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Test Driving the Future

How design competitions are changing innovation

Today's announcement of a Formula E championship - a racing series of electric cars modelled after Formula 1 - is another example of the increasing use of design competitions to foster rapid innovation in areas as disparate as space travel (X prize), driverless vehicles (Google prize), and alternative energy sources (Hydrogen Prize).

The launch of Formula E championship coincides with the publication by Cass Professors Joseph Lampel and Ajay Bhalla, with Pushkar Jha (University of Newcastle Business School) of their extensive study of design competitions titled: "Test Driving the Future: How Design Competitions are Changing Innovation" in the Academy of Management Perspectives journal.

Professor Lampel said: "Design competitions such as Formula E, X-Prize or The Virgin Earth Challenge are quickly becoming an important instrument for fast-tracking nascent technologies, and focusing attention on solutions to pressing social needs. The pattern is now well established: Corporations, foundations, governments, or individual entrepreneurs sponsor and organize a competition with targets and prizes. This may take the form of an event in which participants display their skills and ingenuity, or it may simply be a stand-alone challenge that innovators tackle at their discretion.

"This paper provides insights into the innovation agendas of organizations and individuals who sponsor and organize design competitions. In particular the paper examines the architecture of such competitions, and the governance principles that ensure transparency and fairness. The paper also examines the close links between contemporary design competitions and recent emergence of new modes of innovation such as crowdsourcing and open innovation."

"In addition to analyzing the structure and dynamics of design competitions the paper also sets out a set of best practices for private and public organizations that embark on setting up and managing design competitions."

Joseph Lampel, Pushkar P. Jha, and Ajay Bhalla, 'Test-Driving the Future: How Design Competitions Are Changing Innovation', ACADEMY OF MANAGEMENT PERSPECTIVES

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