From time to time we post word of notable design competitions, where all it takes is a designer with a good idea and skills that can net them thousands in prize money. But what we've got here today is something like a super-competition, with a lot more money at stake (millions), broader requirements than just design skills, and a much higher barrier to entry.
The U.S. Government's Advanced Manufacturing Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge is a US $26 million initiative to boost regional economies. If the competition's name doesn't tip you off, let us spell it out: This being the U.S. Gov we're talking about, the Challenge will be a fiendishly complicated course to navigate involving tons of paperwork and an alphabet soup of organizations you'd have to deal with. You can't apply as an individual, but must be part of a nonprofit, institution of higher learning or a business entity. But there's $2.3 million in it for every winning project, and by virtue of the fact that this involves manufacturing, it means designers can be players.
What the Challenge is hoping to set up is not on the scale of individual products, like a Kickstarter or Quirky project; they're trying to get clusters going, those interconnected networks of different types of firms that spells out, long-term, more jobs. Here's a more specific description:
Clusters are made up of industries, and build on a region's traditional strengths and assets. Because every region has a unique competitive advantage that is built on unique regional assets, the existing and emerging clusters present often differs from community to community.
For example, one region with strong university and research centers may leverage their technical expertise in composite materials to support the regional composites cluster by helping support supply chains and providing technical expertise on how to advance existing composite materials while another region that has a strong transportation and manufacturing sector may focus on leveraging their university and community colleges to advance the automotive and aerospace companies in the region.
The bottom line: If you've got an idea for a cluster, and are part of an organization that you think could successfully navigate the bureaucracy required to get your project off of the ground, dive in here.