Published October 26, 2018

Sparking social innovation through challenge prizes

Solutions to complex social problems are usually created by teams and through collaborations. That's why examining innovation at a team level is of particular importance
Author's profile page: Tuukka Toivonen
PhD, UCL & LSE and Creative Friction Ltd.
Tuukka Toivonen PhD (Oxon.) is an expert on creativity in entrepreneurship, collaborative spaces and social innovation.
Author's profile page: Emma Nordbäck
Postdoctoral researcher, Aalto University School of Business
Emma Nordbäck, D.Sc.(Tech.), works as a postdoctoral researcher at Aalto University School of Business, in the programme of International Design Business Management (IDBM).
Author's profile page: Ville Takala
Senior Research Associate , Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose, University College London
Ville Takala is Senior Research Associate in Public Value and Digital Transformation at the Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose, University College London. His research explores the digital future of the state, particularly in relation to the challenges and opportunities presented by Big Data information sources.

Challenge prize competitions may significantly speed up the creation of new solutions, this study states.

The study is based on the Ratkaisu 100 challenge prize organised by Sitra between 2016 and 2017 and the extensive empirical material gathered on it. In the research setting, the focus was on describing and analysing especially the diverse ways in which the participating teams benefitted from the challenge prize.

But how do competitions speed up the creation of new ideas? The study proposes the following four insights:

  1. New brains to solve challenges. At best, challenge prizes attract new and competent experts to the field defined by the challenge, determine important criteria for new innovations and speed up the development of innovations.
  2. Ideas develop together. Challenge prizes with an integrated incubator or development period can considerably support the progress of the participating teams’ idea journeys.
  3. Different teams benefit from competitions in different ways. Significant differences can usually be seen in the development of the participating teams’ idea journeys. Different teams benefit from the challenge prize in different ways and the teams’ different needs should therefore be taken into account when planning the challenge prize.
  4. Discussions speed up the creation of innovations. Evidence from research shows that various interactions and conversations play an important role in the development of innovative ideas.

Publication details


Sparking social innovation through challenge prizes


Tuukka Toivonen, Emma Nordbäck and Ville Takala

Place of publication


Year of publication





62 p.

ISBN (paperback)




ISSN (paperback)





society, challenges, problem solving, innovation, competitions, challenge prizes, teamwork, Ratkaisu 100 challenge prize, social innovation, creativity, networks, solutions


Sitra studies

Publication number



Have some more.

What's this about?