Survey: Innovation challenge participants aren't in it for the money

By Jonah Comstock
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When it comes to innovation challenges, most participants aren't in it for the money, according to a new survey from consultancy group Luminary Labs. The group surveyed 60 prize recipients from 14 challenges run by Luminary Labs. While not all winners surveyed were in the healthcare space, many, including Osso VR, Wellframe and Ginger.io, were, and the sample included challenges sponsored by Janssen, and Merck.

"The right incentives can attract different types of solvers to a challenge," Luminary Labs' leadership team wrote in a blog post about the survey results. "Prize money is obviously a powerful incentive for entering a challenge, but it’s not the only thing that drives quality submissions. In fact, a team’s motivation for entering can depend on the maturity of their solution before the challenge, and money matters more when a solution is more mature. Cash awards were the primary motivation to enter for half of teams with market-ready solutions. But among teams entering with only a concept or idea at the time of entry, half said their primary motivation was an interest in exploring the problem space."

All in all, just 30 percent of those who won competitions with a prize purse over $250,000 listed the money as their primary motivator, and only 10 percent of those with a prize purse below $250,000 did. The rest of the winners in the smaller prize purse challenges were motivated by things like exploring the problem space (35 percent), earning validation (25 percent), or gaining exposure (15 percent).

Even if they went in motivated by the payout, it's not what they see as the most valuable in retrospect.

"Overall, only 10 percent of teams surveyed said learning opportunities — in the form of a virtual accelerator that could include a boot camp, piloting, and/or mentorship — were the primary motivation for entering," wrote the authors, CEO Sara Holoubek, Head of Client Services Janna Gilbert, and Elizabeth Bowling. "But after the challenge, nearly half of teams surveyed (47 percent) named learning opportunities as an important benefit of participating, and one-third (33 percent) said they valued connecting with challenge sponsors, partners, mentors, judges, or other participants."

Luminary Labs also looked at how the companies have done since completing the challenges. Ninety-two percent of respondents have continued to work on their solution since winning. More than 50 percent now have a market-ready product. Two thirds have raised additional capital since winning the prize.