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3/26/2013
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HHS Seeds Employee-Driven Pilot Projects

Department of Health and Human Services staff can get up to $10,000 to implement innovations that will improve agency operations.

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The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has launched a new initiative that will provide seed funding to innovative ideas that could be implemented throughout the department.

Dubbed HHSignite, the program kicked off in beta last week. The goal is to provide HHS employees with resources and tools -- which they often lack -- to put their creative ideas into practice. HHSignite is meant to complement another program called HHSinnovates that recognizes innovative achievements in HHS. That program launched in May 2010.

"There are no shortage of ideas, but for ideas to have real value there must be evidence that it can work," HHS chief technology officer Bryan Sivak wrote in a blog post. "Supporting this idea-validation step of the larger idea-to-solution process is what this program is about," he said.

[ Here's how the White House is sparking creativity. Read White House Seeks Tech Innovation Fellows. ]

The ideas must be new to HHS and directly related to supporting priorities set by HHS secretary Kathleen Sebelius, said Sivak. HHSignite plans to support up to eight new projects with budgets of $10,000 or less. The federal agency is asking for proof-of-concept proposals that can be completed within six months, and will start accepting applications on April 1. Although HHSignite is for HHS employees, teams might include people from outside of HHS or government.

The projects will focus on several areas, including:

-- Process efficiencies. Such as new tools or methods that will make HHS more efficient in complying with operational standards and laws.

-- Technologies. Examples include new tools that empower external amateur scientists and improved cataract detection technology.

-- Relationships/Partnerships. This focuses on expanding the relationship with federal or non-federal partners.

-- Communication. This focuses on social media and collaboration platforms for stakeholders, citizen engagement or both.

-- Workforce development. New or improved methods that will help the workforce such as distance learning and webcasts.

-- Sustainability. Energy efficiency, pollution prevention and other methods that will help HHS meet its public health and sustainability goals.

"We encourage everyone to look at the work they do and ask themselves what can be done to improve our current processes, technologies and services," said Sivak. "In fact, every one of us can think of a status quo operation that could use a little disruption. And by bringing the best ideas of HHS employees to the forefront and testing them, we'll begin to build the pipeline of solutions to those nagging problems, answers to those persistent questions and advancements towards revolutionary breakthroughs."

In addition to funding, winning HHSignite teams will receive consultations with department leaders, access to top innovators at HHS and an opportunity to meet the agency's entrepreneurs. The winners will be announced in June.

InformationWeek's 2013 Government IT Innovators program will feature the most innovative government IT organizations in the 2013 InformationWeek 500 issue and on InformationWeek.com. Does your organization have what it takes? The nomination period for 2013 Government IT Innovators closes April 12.

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