Having a look on the web, it seems that there are an increasing number of competitions and award programmes operating in the green sector. A quick Google will give you pages of hits, from small local awards, to huge well respected competitions like the Zayed Future Energy Prize.Some of these awards offer only prestige and good PR, others have financial incentives. Here at the Power Collective we were very fortunate to win the Green Challenge Competition run by the Dutch Postcode Lottery, and that win has set us firmly on the path to success (I hope), so you would think that I would be a big supporter of competitions, but that's not necessarily the case. There can also be a downside to entering competitions and I think that it would be useful for companies thinking of entering to ask themselves a few questions:
Is the competition right for you? What would winning the competition bring - is it just prestige, money, networking opportunities, PR? And is this something that you need at this stage of your company's development? For example - great PR and exposure works best if you are close to market, or already trading. Good PR might also help raise capital. Is that appropriate right now? Because if it isn't the competition is just a distraction. And talking of distractions - have you the bandwidth to speculate in this way? Competitions have winners and losers, and the effort that goes in to the entry process is the same for both - can you spare the time?
All of these points are worth considering, but on their own - not too important. However, there is one danger that is very real, and that could finish your business before it has even got started - the loss of your intellectual property.
Recently, a tweet pointed me in the direction of a competition run by a large corporation. A huge prize was offered, and out of interest I took a look. Frankly, I was shocked. The competition had a number of stages, and in the first stage, the company was offering "up to $15,000" for a number of lucky entrants, from which the winners would be chosen. However - by accepting an award, the entrants are agreeing to sign over all Intellectual Property rights, AND to assist the corporation in supporting the IP that they have signed away!
This is like the guy who steals your car asking you to pay for it's servicing. Even if the corporation paid the full $15,000 to all of the entrants, they are effectively buying IP very, very cheaply. This competition was being retweeted and publicised by organisations that should know better, and lent the competition some undeserved credibility.
I've seen this sort of behaviour before, and whilst it is no doubt legal, it stinks to high heaven. With the global economy in recession, the green sector seems to be the only game in town and that means that all sorts of organisations are looking for the next big "green" thing - so if you think that you have a great idea, make sure that you keep it - read the small print, and only enter competitions that are run by well respected organisations that don't have any ulterior motives (like the Green Challenge ;).