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Winning the R&D Game

Are you trying to develop the next big thing? Enlist help from bright minds outside your company by throwing in a prize.

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This story appears in the September 2006 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

NASA wants its own Willy Wonka-esque elevator that will reach all the way to space. Instead of building it from scratch with its limited manpower and investing millions of its own money, the agency is holding competitions and offering a few thousand Ben Franklins to whoever can make it happen. The newest R&D teams aren't in the back office; they're in society at large. R&D is quickly becoming a game, and the prize is cold, hard cash.

Colin Nederkoorn of Houston is the poster child for today's solution-seekers. When Apple announced it was switching to Intel processor chips, internet forums buzzed with theories that Mac hardware would be able to run the Windows OS natively--a function that would benefit the shipbroking company Nederkoorn works for, as well as Mac users everywhere. Nederkoorn put up $100 to the first person who created the missing link that would enable the Mac to run Windows, and allowed others to contribute to the prize. Within months a solution was found, and the winning team collected $13,854.

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