Gulf Coast Innovation Challenge.
As one of the leading philanthropic foundations in Florida, Gulf Coast Community Foundation focuses on developing innovative solutions to systemic challenges, like moving a largely service-based regional economy toward more innovation-based industries that can better weather economic downturns, provide good-paying jobs, and help retain talented youth. This approach generated an interest in an overlooked industry cluster that, with the proper strategy and investment, could create prosperous growth and economic benefit for the region. As a result, Gulf Coast was the lead in pursuit of a tactic that would spur breakthrough ideas and catalyze innovation in the region’s marine science and technology sector, or “Blue Economy.”
The foundation decided to stimulate this economic opportunity by incentivizing entrepreneurs, thinkers, and environmentalists with a unique challenge grant open to anyone who partnered with a nonprofit organization. The challenge to incite innovation was a fresh way to inspire growth; however, administering such a first-ever competition and responsibly distributing the significant award, while also spurring new ideas and meaningful innovation, became obstacles.
- Strategy Mapping
By analyzing the foundation’s goals and its motivation behind the incentive grant, ATLARGE was able to better define the criteria for the challenge in order to structure it based on milestones. Ensuring that innovators around the world who were already involved in the field became aware of the challenge and knew about this undertaking in the region was a significant consideration.
To position the foundation’s Innovation Challenge as a globally aligned project, our team built and launched a platform in collaboration with YouTube that allowed innovators to register, assemble a team, and create a submission in a multi-step process. Rather than focusing on a singular prize that delivered a short-term, narrow impact, the approach we took focused on creating a long-term, sustainable outcome. This offered participants the ability to better identify the ways they could cultivate products around which to build an industry.
The Big Finale.
After the first stage and 200 submissions, viable ideas were identified and narrowed down, leading to five finalists who moved into a prototype stage, culminating in an overall winning project. Beyond incentivizing and investing in the finalists’ individual projects, the Innovation Challenge put the Blue Economy on the region’s map, raising vital awareness of the sector’s vast economic potential. People already passionate about marine science and technology found an avenue to push their talent and expertise. New connections were made and business and conservation opportunities were spawned that simply would not have occurred otherwise. Regionally and nationally generated press coverage of the Challenge drew the attention of industry thinkers, entrepreneurs, and philanthropists, seeding new ideas to help grow the Gulf Coast’s Blue Economy.
“The team at ATLARGE were invaluable partners in the Gulf Coast Innovation Challenge. Working with such an innovative group to develop and launch our first incentive-grant challenge was key to its success.”
- Dr. Mark S. Pritchett, President/CEO of Gulf Coast