Space Challenge Playbook

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***Work in Progress***



Leveraging Incentive Prizes

Incentive prizes have been used throughout history for catalyzing industries and innovation. From the Longitude Prize that ushered accurate maritime navigation globally to the Orteig Prize that jump started the aerospace industry, prize competitions give birth to ideas, entrepreneurs and businesses. In addition, it is a platform that can also be used to educate, train and influence the general public towards understanding the many opportunities and benefits a space industry can provide to a country. It is also a platform to prototype different ways of incubating, mentoring and supporting space entrepreneurs and startups as they work towards leveraging space technologies to solve local problems while creating potential economic growth.

It is in this vein that SpaceBase has decided to run space competitions to create a nascent space ecosystem in New Zealand. It is an experiment that can be ported to other nations and regions who are interested in building their own space industry. Using competitions, SpaceBase has been able to deliver a single project while working towards all its higher level goals of education, entrepreneurship and community building essential to space ecosystem building.


It is important to get alignment on the challenge high level goals for each key partner. This is normally conducted through a series of brain storming, goals setting meetings to reach consensus among stakeholders before attempting to define the challenge problem statement.

High Level Goals

Challenge is used as a tool to catalyze a space ecosystem in a country or region.

Framing Challenge Benefits and Goals

  • Catalyzing ideas, projects, startups and businesses
  • Solving an inherent local problem
  • Platform for education and outreach
  • Build technology capabilities within the country or region
  • Showcase existing talent and capabilities
  • Catalyze collaboration and partnerships, and build relationships
  • Creates spin-offs from existing industries

Challenge Work Streams, Roles and Responsibilities

The following are the major workstreams for delivering a Challenge programme. It is important to identify who is lead, and the support teams for each of these workstreams.

Work Streams

Project Management

Objective:  To make sure that key goals and milestones are met.  Assign task management for work streams and create agenda items for weekly update meetings for the duration of the Challenge.  

Major Task:

  • Weekly update Meetings and Agenda
  • Management of action items and compliance with deadlines

Challenge Definition

Objective: Define and align Challenge problem, objectives and requirements.

Major Task:

  • Define Problem Statement
  • Define Requirements, Rubric and Process
  • Determine Key Partners and Stakeholders

Marketing/PR/Key Messaging

Objective: Come up with Marketing and PR plan for all elements of the Challenge and create collateral to be used throughout the project timeline

Major Task:

  • Create Marketing/PR Strategy Plan
  • Finalize Challenge Website
  • Create Collateral for Sponsorships and Recruitment
  • Press Release

Sponsorships & Partnerships

Objective: Raise sponsorship for cash prize award and in-kind support as well as recruit partners to help in applicant recruitment, public outreach and applicant support

Major Task:

  • Raise for Prize pool and awards
  • Identify sponsors for post challenge startup support
  • Recruit industry and regional partners for recruitment and application support

Judges & Mentoship Recruitment

Objective: Recruit judges for prequalification and semi-final judging as well as commfirm final judges for pitch and demo final event

Major Task:

  • Identify at least 5 judges for prequalification
  • Identify 12 judges for finalist selection
  • Confirm parties and gold sponsor judge reps for final event

Application Process

Objective: Prep and run application process to prequalify applicants for the Challenge Incubation Program

Major Task:

  • Ready Application and Evaluation Platform (Slideroom Platform)
  • Create application information and guidelines for website

Kick Off Event

Objective:  Execute on a successful kick-off and marketing event for the Challenge and open the application portal

Major Task:

  • Venue and logistics Setup
  • Marketing and invites to the event
  • Finalize Program Agenda and Speaker Line Up

Outreach & Briefings

Objective:  Conduct a successful outreach and recruitment campaign to increase Challenge participation

Major Task:

  • Partner with local EDAs to schedule briefings across NZ
  • Create customized presentation
  • Identify regional specialist to present at briefings

Online Preliminary Eval

Objective: Evaluate applicant pool and determine teams for the Challenge Incubator

Major Task:

  • Coordinate online judging


Objective: Support pre-qualified teams to advance and build prototypes to solve the Challenge problem

Major Task:

  • Identify and assign mentors to each team
  • Setup collaboration platform and resources for teams
  • Setup flight test opportunities for each team
  • Identify relevant data sets to be used for prototyping

Semi-Final Judging

Objective: From final application submissions, evaluate and determine 10 finalist to invite to final demo and pitch event in October 2019

Major Task:

  • Coordinate judge evaluation process on Slideroom platform
  • Confirmation and announcement of finalists (10)

Final Pitch & Award Ceremony

Objective: Execute on a successful finals event and showcase Challenge community of partners and winners.

Major Task:

  • Venue and logistics Setup
  • Marketing and invites to the event
  • Finalize Program Agenda and Speaker LineUp
  • Finalize flight demo logistics for Bridlings Flats

Final Judging

Objective: Evaluate finalists through demo and pitch sessions, and determine Challenge grand prize, and second and thrid prize winners

Major Task:

  • Conduct flight demonstrations as part of team evaluations
  • Run pitch session for 10 finalists
  • Coordinate judging process to determine winners

Post Challenge Incubation

Objective: Provide project development support post challenge to winners through office space and startup advice

Major Task:

  • Identify mentors to support winning teams
  • Coordinate winner needs to local incubator host

Roles & Responsibilities

The following are the major roles needed for delivering a successful Challenge. Key partners generally take on major roles of running the programme.

General Program Management

An overall project manager is critical to the success of the Challenge. It should be clear who makes all the decisions and gives the last word for determining any course of action.

Partnership Coordination

The challenge will involve multiple layers of stakeholders, partners and sponsors. The coordinator will manage the relationships between all types of partners and maintain channels of communication not to loose momentum and interests between all the different supporters.

Application and Evaluation Delivery

Main delivery partner responsible for planning and development, as well as execution of the application and judging process. Could also play a huge role in the recruitment of applicants and judges through briefings and outreach.

Incubator Delivery

Delivery of the Incubator programme involves planning, scheduling, recruitment of speakers and mentors, as well as setup and operations of sessions. See separate Incubator Playbook for details on needs and activities for running a virtual incubator for the challenge.

Events Planning and Delivery

Planning, prep and delivery of the two major events associted with the Challenge - the Launch and Finals/Awards.

Communications and Marketing

A communications team will play a mjor role in the marketing and recruitment of the Challenge as well as keeping all the stakeholders and sponsors informed throughout the duration of the project. This includes website and collateral development, photography and videography, newsletter and social media campaigns, as well as public relations coordination for the major milestones and events associated with the Challenge.

Fundraising and Sponsorship

Critical to establish early on in the process. Responsible for creating and delivering on a funding and sponsorship campaign to raise the necessary funds, and in-kind support needed for running all the elements of the program and for awarding the cash prizes.


The budget for the Challenge program will depend on the local region or country hosting. It is important to understand what major elements will need the resources to deliver a successful programme.

Challenge Marketing (Online, Press Release)
Project Coordination Fee
Briefings travel expenses for Recruitment (flight,lodging, meals)
Judging & Application Platform
Challenge Kick-off Event
Challenge Final Demo + Piitch
Travel for the Finalist Teams
Cash Prize for Winners
Incubator Programme

Above major budget items do not include in-kind support such as post-challenge winner incubation for the winners. It is important to secure most of the budget before the launch of the challenge. The ideal scenario is to be able to secure the challenge budget over multiple years to ensure the longevity and sustainability of the programme. Again, depending on the prize amount and reach of the challenge, about 100-150k is a good target budget range to aim for.

Project Plan

Writing up a project plan is good practice before embarking on a Challenge. It helps summarize all aspects of the programme and can be used for soliciting key partnerships and supporters early in the process. At the end of the program, it is also a good reference point for evaluating the succes of the program against written down objectives and goals. The elements of a good project plan are mostly already outlined in this playbook and include the following:

  • Purpose and Objectives
  • Deliverables and Scope
  • Interdependencies
  • Roles and Responsibilities
  • Contacts
  • TimeFrame and Schedule
  • Budget and Funding
  • Risks
  • Stakeholders
  • Communications Plan
  • Funding Plan

In addition a detailed line by line description of every actionable item within a workstream would be invaliable for project managing the project and understanding timely progress towards small and major milestones throughout the Challenge campaign.

Major Timelines

Timeline Elements for a Challenge

  • Defining the Problem Statement
  • Launch
  • Incubator Application Deadline
  • Incubator Down Select
  • Incubator Teams Announcement
  • Virtual Incubator Period
  • Application Deadline
  • Finalist Down Select
  • Finalists Announcement
  • Demo Day
  • Pitchfest and Awards Ceremony
  • Post Challenge Incubation

Sample Timeline Schedule

Oct 2018 Research and Refine Challenge problem statement and requirements

Nov 2019 Problem space and rubric for judging requirements finalized

Feb 2019 Applications setup, marketing, promotion and regional partner outreach

April 2019 Partnership promotions, engagement and public outreach

May 2019 Kick-off & Application opens, Press release, Nationwide Campaign to recruit applicants

June-Sept 2019 Applicant support, mentorship, Incubation

Sept 2019 Application closes and judging begins

Oct 2019 Final Pitch and Awards Event/Week

Nov 2019 Post Challenge Incubation (at least 6 months)

NZ Aerospace Challenge 2019 Timeline.jpg

Major Elements

Problem Definition and Scoping

Technology Leveraged

It is clear that that the aim is to create new space products and services and therefore leveraging space-based technologies and data are the main focus for the challenge.

Problem Statement Elements

A well defined problem statement should have the following elements:

  • Clear definition of the problem being addressed (e.g. agriculture pollution detection)
  • Clear definition of expected solution (e.g. product, service)
  • In the case of a space/aerospace, specifically state which technology should be leveraged (e.g. space and UA technologies)

In addition:

  • Should focus on a specific industry or theme to narrow down the scope (e.g. agriculture industry)
  • Be clear in quantifying how the problem is being addressed and measureabel outcomes (e.g. measure, detect x)
  • Be clear on whether problem statement has the potential for commercialization vs. an academic exercise or research
  • Consider the benefits on a short and long term scale


  • Solving a Problem vs. Idea Generation
  • Localized Issue vs. Global Implementation
  • Immediate Implementation vs. Incubation

Challenge Scoping

Note that a narrow problem area will drive highly specialized entries but fewer applications. Too broad and the submissions will be difficult to compare and may not offer useful solutions to the problem.

Defining the Challenge: Ideation of Problem Space


Consider using the UN Sustainability Development Goals as an initial guideline for focusing on a problem area that has global impact and scale. A successful Challenge is also dependent on how relevant the problem area is to the local or national community it is being executed. The level of interest for both applicants and partners for the Challenge is largely dependent on the significance of the problem.

Determining the Industry Space

Determining the problem space is also largely dependent on its relevance to an existing industry. Consider the potential extent of support and interest when choosing the industry to focus on in the local region.

Here are examples of problem areas identified for the NZ Aerospace Challenge utilizing space and UA technologies:

New Zealand Industry and Policy Issues
  • Population Distribution
  • Water Supply/Distribution
  • Water Quality
  • Water differentiation (fresh/salt)
  • Drought Patterns
  • Road Development/Mapping
  • Forestry Mapping (logging, deforestation, fire risks)
  • Agriculture – livestock
  • Agriculture – crops
Disaster Preparation and Response
  • Seismic/earthquake monitoring
  • Tsunami/weather warnings
  • Disaster Response
  • Emergency localized communications (e.g. high altitude unmanned aerial vehicles)
Advanced Technologies
  • Internet of things (IoT)
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning - big data applications
Environment and Ecology
  • Bird Migrations
  • Fish Migrations
  • Invasive Species
  • Ocean health/coastal health
  • NZ flora and fauna - taxonomy and classification
Urban Air Mobility

Research and Interviews from the Industry Ecosystem

Once a specific industry focus is determined among key partners and stakeholders. The next step is to conduct an industry research on the current and most important challenges the industry is facing and understand the current solutions and state of the art technologies being implemented to date.

To assist in this exercise create:

  • a list of potential industry experts to interview
  • conduct one-on-one interviews with industry specialists and stakeholders to come up with the most popular themes
  • research similar or existing competitions elsewhere to compare and contrast what works

Identifying several theme problem focus areas

Choose several theme areas and draft 2-3 potential problem statements that focus on the theme areas. For the NZ challenges, we have given the key partners the option of choosing their top themes. In addition, we went back to the area experts and industry stakeholders to further validate the relevance of the top selected problem statements

Finalizing the Problem Statement

Sample Problem statements from past challenges:

"Develop a product or service that detects, monitors or measures water or soil pollution using the very latest satellite and unmanned aircraft (UA) technology data."

"Our challenge is to use new or current technologies or data, in space or on the ice, (a) find the best methods to identify hazards and map a path across the ice, and (b) design or prototype new sensor systems and algorithms to help vehicles navigate across the ice in Antarctica"

To finalize the problem statement, make sure that all key partners sign off to the final version. Make sure to always use the same version in all external facing information about the Challenge.

Challenge Mechanics

Some major considerations when putting together the Challenge mechanics

  • Design for using space technologies
  • Design for extended development and work (6 months)
  • Design for follow-on support from local specialists
  • Design for level of requirements (proof of concept)
Top level considerations
  • Challenge Timeframe – Make sure it leverages timing for maximum participation. E.g. Leverage academic scheduling to maximize applicants or make use of existing related programs that might incorporate the challenge within their regular academic programs.
  • Collaboration Process – Maximize national participation and ownership to incentivize regional participation and promotion for finding local talent and building capacity within regions.
  • Matching goals with Challenge Execution – The mechanics of the Challenge should match outcomes;  e.g. 3 month challenge vs. start-up weekend
  • Follow-on Support – needs to be build-in to the Challenge for birthing lasting projects and startups.
  • End-User Participation – Stakeholders that stand to benefit from Challenge solutions would be best incorporated during problem definition, prototyping of solutions for validation, and implementation to solve a problem.

Main elements

  • Proposal Application Period (2 months)
  • Incubator Programme (5 months)
  • Finalist Down Selection and Preparation (1 month)
  • Demo and Pitch Presentations (2 days)

The judging criteria shoulde reflect the goals of the Challenge. Below is a sample of the judging criteria used for both the NZ Space and Aerospace Challenges

  • Use of space and/or UAV technology (10 points) - Leverage aerospace technology using satellite data, high altitude, or UA (including fixed wing) technologies to address the Challenge problem statement.
  • Technical feasibility, safety and rigor (10 points) - Based on sound scientific principles and methods that adhere to safety regulations and requirements.  
  • Innovative solution (10 points) - Novel and new idea.  Solution has not been brought to market yet.   
  • Market viability (10 points) - Must address market opportunity and scope, and a clear business case or plan for execution for bringing the product or service to market. Plan is easy to implement, adopt, and scale.
  • Environmental impact (10 points) - Maximum positive impact and benefit to society at scale
  • •Team composition for execution (5 points each) - Team has the background and experience to take the demonstrable solution or prototype to develop a viable business. (e.g. Hipster, Hustler, Hacker)
  • Prototype (20 points) - Practical demonstration of the solution to the Challenge

Additional points (2 points each)

  • Evidence of impact within 3 years - Forecasted and demonstrable business outcomes over a three year period that can potentially have a large impact toward solving the challenge problem.
  • Collaboration with multiple stakeholders - Partnerships with different organizations and collaborators for building the product or service to accelerate development
  • Creative integration (from other technologies) - Innovative use of existing technologies or industries in solving the Challenge

Lessons Learned

  • NZ Space and Aerospace Challenges
  • Other Challenges

Partnership and Collaborations

Anchor Partners

It is important to have the anchor partners in place before undertaking a Challenge competition. This will help attract other partnerships and collaborators for the finer elements and needs of the competition.

This normally means having the major partners for the following in place:

  • challenge delivery (applications and judging)
  • incubator programme (during the challenge)
  • communications and marketing
  • events and logistics
  • sponsorship

Industry Partners

Depending on the focus industry for the Challenge per year, finding an industry partner would be critical to the success of the Challenge. The industry partner would be the gateway to finding specialists, judges and even funding sources for the Challenge. Involving them very early in the planning process, specially during the problem definition stage is very important.

In-kind Collaborators

For a national Challege to succeed, it is critical to be able to involve as many partners and collaborators across the country. These partners will help in the delivery of the challenge on several levels including:

  • help in recruitment through dessiminating challenge information in local and regional areas through social and online networks that would be harder to reach if centralized
  • hosting briefings and training sessions in the different regions across the country.
  • providing incubation, mentorship and entrepreneurial support for applicants and incubator teams in their region
  • providing testing facilities or expertise within region for local applicants and teams
  • help in recruitment of judges for evaluating across the regions
  • introductions to potential sponsors and partners within region
  • introductions to local media for Challenge coverage

In-kind supporters are normally incentivized to participate by recognizing their support through logos on the Challenge website and opportunity to present and market their goals and services during a Challenge event or briefing.

Action Items

  • Create a list of potential Partners and Collaborators. You will use this list for different needs throughout the challenge (e.g. juding, mentorship)
  • Have partners sign an LOI to officially document collaboration
  • Gather partner logos early in the process for showcasing on website or marketing materials
  • Include in communications plan periodic partner newsletters (.e.g. monthly) targeted at collaborators and partners throughout the Challenge competition

Funding and Sponsorship

Prize Structure

The following outlines the full potential benefits of an applicant/team who goes through all levels of the Challenge program.

First Round Benefits:  Challenge Incubator Program

Teams down selected to participate will receive the following benefits:

  • Mentorship support from local specialist. Ideally each team is assigned a mentor to consult with for the duration of the incubator
  • Access to relevant dataset to be used for prototyping solution
  • Assistance in flight testing prototypes at licensed fly
  • SpaceBase Collaboration platform with repository of resources for teams.  Communications with teams will be supported through this platform.
  • Bi-weekly or monthly video call check-ins for status and info updates
  • Incubator Webinars - ideas generation and prototyping (e.g. design thinking workshops, satellite data analysis from  from other partners)

Second Round Benefits:  Finalists Pitch and Demo Day

Teams down selected to Finalist will receive:

  • Invitation to pitch and demo their solution during the finals
  • Travel cost (2 nights + local NZ flight) for one team representative
  • Regional EDAs and local partners/sponsors to support and assist Finalist from their regions (optional)

Third Round Benefits:  Grand Prize Winner and Runner Ups

After the demo and pitch presentations, winners receive:

Grand Prize winner

  • Cash prize
  • Data vouchers
  • In-kind office space and mentorship in host city

Two Runner Ups :

  • Cash prize
  • Data vouchers
  • In-kind office space and mentorship in host city

Funding Plan Campaign


Challenge team needs to raise:

  • Cash Prize for the Grand Prize winner + 2x Runner Ups (e.g. for the NZ Aerospace Challenge 30K Grand Prize, 5kx2 Runner-ups)
  • Travel cost for finalists (e.g 10 team representatives) to travel (domestic fights + 2 nights) to finals for demo and pitch session
  • 6 months office/desk space and mentorship  for 3 final winners
  • In kind support from different service organizations such as law and accounting firms
  • Marketing Campaign to solicit partnerships from Economic Development Organizations, Local Government, and Industry Partners.  Sponsorships would be classified in tiers: Gold, Silver, Bronze with specific benefits.
  • Approach incubators in host city for in-kind 6 months incubation.  Alternatively, approach incubators across regions for incubator support or those that have remote participation programmes
  • Though it has not been fully implemented in the past and current challenges, it is worth seeking out an anchor sponsor from the industry sector the challenge is focused on. It might even be more effective to seek out the industry sponsor and collaborate to address that sector's most pressing tech challenge prior to defining the problem statement. This might be a more sustainable way of funding the Challenge in the long term on top of potential government funding support.

Sponsorship Categories and Benefits

Sponsorship tiers are normally set based on the level of cash or equivalent in-kind sponsorship. (e.g. Gold, Silver and Bronze corresponds to 10k, 5k, 2.5k equivalent)

Here are sample benefits that can be offered as part of the Challenge:

  • VIP Tickets to the Final Event (if not free)
  • Opportunity to join the judging panel
  • Specific mention in media and communications activity
  • Logos on website and marketing materials
  • Exclusive opportunity to network with applicant teams and finalists
  • Opportunity to speak at Challenge events and briefings
  • Opportunity to participate in an Expo to showcase their products and services

Action Items

  • Create a Sponsorship List - Start from regional Economic Development Organizations (EDAs), Local Government and Industry Partners
  • Draft Sponsorship Letter and One Pager Challenge Info. Sponsorship letter should include the following elements:
    • Challenge Definition
    • Importance to the Specific Industry
    • General Challenge Mechanics and Prizes
    • Challenge Timeline
    • Call to Action -Sponsorship Tiers
  • Draft the LOI for Sponsors - once a sponsor is identified and verbally confirmed, follow up with an LOI to formalize the sponsorship/partnership. Include specifics of what amount is being pledged and the corresponding benefits for the sponsorship.

Comms and Marketing

Communications Plan

The success of the Challenge for recruiting applicants, sponsors, judges and in-kind partners depend hugely on pre-challenge preparations for the communications and marketing plan. Whether it be creating the interest and buzz for the launch to finals events, or soliciting regional partners to help in applicant recruitment, briefings support or in-kind resources for incubator teams, a strong comms team is needed to keep the interest going for all stakeholders throughout the duration of the competition.


The Challenge website is the critical repository for public information about the Challenge. It must be ready for release once invitations for the launch event goes out and therefore development should commence a month or more prior. See the NZ Aerospace Challenge website as an example. The following are the major elements

  • Challenge Info and Requirements - Include the following elements for this section:
    • Goals and Benefitfs of the Challenge
    • Problem Statement
    • Prize
    • Requirements
    • Timeline
    • Judging Criteria
  • Terms and Conditions - Same T&Cs to be acknowledged and signed by any applicant wishing to partiipate. See the elements of the T&Cs in the application process section below.
  • FAQs - Create a frequently asked questions section on the site. Include questions such as the following:
    • Who Can Apply for the Challenge?
    • How are Applicants Evaluated?
    • What is the judging process?
    • What benefits do the winners get?
  • Sponsor and Partner Logos - Include a section listing all partners and sponsors includig their logos.
  • News - include section on external news and coverage on the challenge here

Collaboration Platform and Resources

A separate collaboration platform was created as a dynamic repository of resources for general applicants. It also has a forum feature for discussions and questions that are not as easily communicated through a static website. The SpaceBase platform was used for both Challenges.


Videos are an effective way of creating public interest. It is recommended that a launch video is created as a marketing and recruitment tool for the competition.

Examples of videos produced for NZ Space and Aerospace Challenges (Produced by ChristchurchNZ)

NZ Aerospace Challenge 2019 Update


Interviews were conducted throughout the challenge application period for use in the videos or as feature articles in the newsletters distributed throughout the challenge application period. Source materials could come from different stakeholders:

  • Partners
  • Judges
  • Incubar Session Speakers
  • Industry Stakeholders
  • Winners


To keep the interest high and the sponsors and partners well informed throughout the challenge process, a monthly newsletters is distributed to the entire database of challenge supportes and partners. This include updates on the teams through the incubator program to interviews conducted from the different stakeholders listed above. Here's an example of a challenge update newsletter.

Press Releases and Media Advisory

A press release is normally scheduled for announcing the launch of the competition, and the selection of the participants, finalists and winners throughout the three phases of the competition.


In preparation for the Challenge launch, the following collateral should be created and finalized:

  • Logo for the Challenge - suggest something that is not time dependent and can be used every year
  • Repository of copyright free space and aerospace images for use in different marketing materials
  • Banner for the challenge to be used for the brieifings and events throughout the duration of the campaign. Suggest that it be not time dependent
  • Email signature banner file to be used by organizers to further help in markeitng the competiton
  • Slide deck template for the Challenge
  • Letter head challenge banner (optional)


Sponsors and Partners

Sponsors are critical for supporting the challenge both in cash and in kind. In an ideal scenario, key partners are prepared to shoulder the operational cost for running the program and providing the prize benefits for the winning teams. However, it is often the case that recruiting sponsors for prizes and in-kind support is the easiest way to not over-burden the key stakeholders but is an intensive annual process. It is more ideal to find recurring sponsorship to ensure sustainability. Start with a sponsor leads list sourced from the key partners.

The following stakholder segments are normally the general sources for recruiting sponsors and partners:

  1. Industry Stakeholders - Will depend on the current industry focus of the challeng. .g., major corporations, institutions, trade organizations and associations in the focus industry
  2. Local, Regional and National Government - look for ministries or government entities focused on solving the same challenge problem
  3. Economic Development Authorities - will have the local network to find relevant individuals or organizations who might be able to sponsor or donate in-kind resources and expertise.


THe success of the Challenge depends hugely on the quality of the applications and solutions. It is therefore important to cast a wide net and engage different stakeholders and collaborators across the country to help recruit in the different regions. It is advantageous to involve the Economic Development Authorities in the regions who already have the local networks, media and social channels to recruit.

Targeted Campaigns
  • Academia - Reaching out to all the universities across the country and the appropriate departments internally. Some university programs can incorporate the Challenge in their already exisitng program curriculum. Undestand the academic schedules, and target Challenge milestones on favourable days in the academic term schedule.
  • Incubators and Accelerators - Through the EDAs, regional incubators are good recruitment channels where existing entrepreneurs in related disciplines might be interested to apply.
  • Aerospace/Space Communities - The aerospace community may be at its infancy but public space communities such as astronomical societies, meetup groups and student space associations are good target networks for recruitment.
Challenge RoadShow

Doing a Road Show across the country is an effective way of engaging the regional partners and collaborators in a more personal level. In the two Challenges conducted, these were done over a 1-1.5 month period .

  • Briefings - Should be arranged and scheduled at least a month in advance. This normally includes a 60 minute presenatin on the Challenge mechanics and general space overview, followed by an invite industry expert from the local region. Local incubators are normally more than willing to host these events. In some cases, a virtual session can be conducted when the schedule is prohibitive. Make sure to create the equivalent eventbrite invites and publicize it in the different social media channels. Briefings are normally conducted right after the Launch event for several weeks. Here's an example of s challenge briefing slidedeck.
  • Outreach Opportunities - other opportunities such as expos, conferences and other related space events are good opportunities for displaying a challenge banner or giving informational sessions.


Judges for all three of the phases will normally come from industry specialists and key partners. It is important to have the perfect balance of background expertise to be able to obtain the intended results for evaluating the applications. In general, the following groups of evaluators are needed below.

Criteria and Expertise
  • Technology Specialist - evaluators who have either the space and aerospace (UA, aviation) expertise who can understand whether the solutions are technically sound and feasible
  • Business Commercialization - evaluators who can assess the business and commercialization vialbility of the application
  • Industry Experts - judges who have indepth knowledge of the industry and the problem focus as well as can assess whether the product or service is a novel or already implemented solution in that industry
  • User/Government Stakeholders - stakeholders and end users of the product or service who can assertain the usability and application of the solution
Recruitment letter template

When recruiting for judges, make sure to include an information document that includes the following elements to help the candidate make an easy decision on participating. This includes:

  • Time commitment and deadlines for evaluation
  • Application requirements submitted
  • Judging Criteria
  • Process of Evaluation - e.g. online platform


To deliver a successful virtual incubator, it is important to be able to recruit the best speakers who can participate in the different sessions of the programme. Because the program is conducted online as webinars, specialists, mentors, and speakers can be recruited from across the country easily.

  1. Delivery Partners - Taking advantage of already existing incubators in the local area for speaker delivery is the easiest source for presenters. Other incubators across the country can also participate through the online webinars.
  2. Mentors - Ideally recruited in the same area as the team being mentored. Can approach local incubators in team locations to recruit mentors. While we have recruited mentors specific to the needs of the teams on a case by case basis, in the future, it would be best to assign mentors that will commit to sheperding teams for the duration of the incubator process as well.
  3. Industry Specialists - During the incubation period, the need for expertise to help and validate MVP process is critical. These specialists could often be recruited through the key industry partner recommendations and through other advisors already engaged during the problem definition stage.

Application Process

To insure a successful outcome and fulfillment of challenge goals, we are iterated on the application process between the two competitions so far run in NZ. The first Challenge was run wtih a full application submitted over a three month period and evaluated regionally. This allowed more time for applicants to submit their solutions but had minimal support by way of training sessions open to the public related to the problem area. For the second Challenge, a separate application to participate in a virtual incubator was added to help applicants better prepare and develop their solutions prior to submiting a full application. This section will outline the different phases of the application process and its requirements as well as setting up the application form and processing from application to acceptance.

Terms and Conditions Document

It is important to have each applicant sign a terms and conditions document outlining the terms of their participation which includes but not limited to the following major points:

  • competition rules and requirements
  • evaluation of application process
  • info about the prizes and how to claim them
  • media release
  • liability release

As an example, refer to the NZ Aerospace Challenge 2019 T&Cs


The length of the application period can vary between 3-5 months. For a competition that requires a demonstrable solution or working prototype, applicants should be given enough time to work on an MVP. As in the NZ Aerospace Challenge, the length of the application period is also the same time as the virtual incubator program support for those team proposals selected. Make sure to allocated enough time between the application deadline and the final pitch and demo sessions for judges evaluations, announcements and acceptances.

Each judging phase has the following evaluation timeline:

  1. Phase 1: 1.5 months from launch to proposal deadline
  2. Phase 2: 4 months from launch to application deadline
  3. Phase 3: 2 weeks from announcement of finalists to final demo and pitch

Application Phases and Requirements

Phase 1: Incubation Team Selection

Phase 1 of the application process involves a proposal to participate in the Virtual Incubation Program in advance of submitting a full application to the Challenge. Up to 20 teams will be selected to participate.


  • Team CVs
  • Example Challenge Proposal - Document should be between 2 -10 pages and must include the following sections:
    • Specific aspect of problem being addressed
    • General Technical Approach
    • Projected plan and schedule
    • Specific request for technical support (satellite data, or other)
Phase 2: Finalist Down Selection

Full Applications for finalist selection is open to incubator team participants selected from Phase 1 and outside applicants who may have applied for the incubator but did not get in, or from any other teams formulated after Phase 1 selection. Up to 10 finalist will be selected.


  • Team CVs
  • Short Abstract - usually no more than 500 words. This will also be used for public facing information about the team if selected as a finalist
  • Slide Deck - No more than 20 slides. This is equivalent to the the team's business plan and should address the evaluation criteria for the competition
  • Video - no more than 5 minutes explaning the teams solution and showing a demonstrable solution to the challenge problem statement. e.g. flight demonstration, tutorial of software solution
Phase 3: Final Demonstration and Pitch Presentation

After Phase 2 selection, Finalists are required to participate in a demonstration session of their solution, as well as a short pitch presentation of their MVP product or service. They can continue to iterate on their presentation and develop their MVP up until the finals. We recommend that they seek help from regional specialists and resources to help polish their solutions.


  • Demonstrable prototype - either hardware or software. Teams will be given about 15 minutes to "show and tell" their solutions and have the judges ask questions for more details
  • Pitch session - No more than 5 minutes pitch of their solution in front of a panel of judges. Judges will be able to also ask questions after each presentation

Miscellaneous Requirements

Requirements for application will depend on the focus of the Challenge. Since the focus here is to catalyze startups and businesses for NZ, the challenge is restricted to NZ residents or foreign teams with a principal NZ citizen on the team and with the intention that the product or service will be developed in NZ.

To note, the IP remains with the developing team, and not the sponsors of the challenge.

Application Platform Setup

There are many off-the-shelf online application platforms that include features for submitting applications as well as evaluating them. We had opted to use Slideroom. The important elements you need to think about when choosing a good application platform are:

  • Ease of creating forms and good user interface for answering application questions
  • Ability to upload different types of documents and media (e.g. video, slides, etc.)
  • Ability to communicate with applicants individually or in bulk throughout the application process (e.g. emails)
  • Summary and dashboards for application progress
  • Ability to assign completed applicants to individual evaluators
  • Integrated evaluation features for judging and scoring

Creating Application Forms

See sample Challenge application form.

Acceptance and Announcements

For both Phase 1 and 2, incubator teams and finalists are notified as soon as the judges have confirmed selected teams. It is good to give the teams at least a few days to confirm in writing whether they accept to participate and that they read and accepted the T&Cs prior to announcement. An external announcement in the form of a press release and social media announcement happens afer all teams have accepted. Because the timing is short, it would be good to include public facing team descriptions in the application form to be used for media release.

Finalist Info Packs

Create information packs for distribution to the incubator teams and challenge finalist to be distributed after participation acceptance.

Incubator Info Pack - see Virtual Incubator Playbook

Finalist Info Pack should include:

  • General Finals Timeline and Schedule
  • Logistics and Trip Information
  • Request for team needs
  • Finals Requirements (e.g. demo, pitch)

Judging and Evaluations

There are three phases for evaluating applications for the Challenge:

  1. Phase 1: Selecting Incubator Team Participants - up to 20 teams but depends on the capacity of the incubator programme
  2. Phase 2: Selecting Finalist - up to 10 teams who will compete in the Final demo and pitch session. Note: in retrospect, 5-6 teams would be easier to handle and a better number for length of pitch session for the finals.
  3. Phase 3: Final judging to determine the Grand Prize Winner and Runner Ups

Phase 1 & 2 are normally done online through an evaluation platform (see below). However, if regional judging is desired as in the NZ Space Challenge 2018, Down selection for regional finalists can be done as a separate regional pitch event.

Judging Information Packet

Information packets are distributed to judges in the different phases prior to the evaluation period. This is often included in the recruitment email or letter. The information packet should include the following elements:

  • Application Requirements - list of all the application requirements of which each judge will base their evaluations from
  • Time and committment expectations
  • Judging Criteria (points)
  • Guidelines for the Platform
  • Timeline and Schedule for Judging

Evaluation Platform Setup and Access

There are many evaluation platforms online available for conducting Challenge judging. We have chosen to use Slideroom based on prior experience and its features. The important elements for choosing a good platform are:

  • Built in application forms builder with easy uploading of attachments and videos
  • Easy communication channels (eg. mass or individualized emails) to applicants and judges
  • Easy to implement customized evaluation criteria
  • Ability to invite and assign judges to applications
  • Ability to aggregate scores from eache application

Judges will be given access to the evaluation platform at least a week prior to the evaluation period. Judges get assigned applicants immediately after the deadline for applications.

Evaluation Timelines

Each judging phase has the following evaluation timeline:

  1. Phase 1: 2 weeks from proposal deadline and is all conducted online
  2. Phase 2: 2 weeks from full application deadline and is conducted online
  3. Phase 3: Evaluation is conducted during the day of demo and pitch presentations. Information about the finalists will be shared at least a week before the event to give judges time to familiarize themselves with the finalist candidates. It is advised that they make preliminary evaluations using the online platform and make final changes to their scorings during the presentations.

Alignment Sessions

To ensure that all judges understand the goals of the challenge, the definition of the criteria and the requirements for judging, alignment sessions are scheduled before the two week evaluation period. Likewise, an alignment session is also scheduled just after the deadline for online evaluation for Phase 1 and 2 to make sure all judges agree with the final list prior to public announcement. During the finals, a short alignment session is scheduled at the end of all the pitch presentations to also confirm the results of the online scoring before announcing the winners.


See separage Virtual Incubator Playbook.

Post Challenge Support

For a successful Challenge to produce lasting outcomes and impact, the support does not end at the conclusion of the competition. It is critical to include post-challenge benefits and support to the winning teams so that they can continue to develop their solutions and commercialize them into products and services. As part of the prize winnings, a six months startup incubation support is included post challenge.

Co-working space

Providing working space or hot desking for six months in an already established incubator will help challenge teams grow and continue to innovate as they get immersed in an entrepreneurial environment. Depending on the challenge host requirements, this is best offered in the same city or region as the winning teams. This allows teams to remain in their current base and need not relocate. The alternative is an existing aerospace incubator focused on assisting space focused projects and entrepreneurs. Incubators that have virtual programmes are also good candidates.

Startup Mentorship

Formal mentorship and guidance would be important to the challenge teams. This can be accomplished by offering winning teams the opporutnity to participate in existing incubator programs within region or better yet, programs that can be done remotely through online webinars and programming. Having specifically assigned mentors throughout the six month incubation period is desirable.

Other Services

In addition, other in-kind support from business services such as accounting and law firms who can offer services for business setup, commercializaton of IP or tax services is a huge plus.

Events Planning and Execution

There are two major events associated with the Challege - launch and finals. Both are orchestrated in collaboration with the comms team with the communications plan. The following section describes only the logistical elements of the events.


  1. Date - Considerations for choosing the date depends on a number of factors which could include the availability of a suitable venue and target keynote speakers that could draw the audience for the event. Take into consideration other events that might compete with attendance. A two hour allocation or less would be the right amount of time for some key speakers, announcement and mechanics of the event as well as some networking and refreshments. Lunch time or the end of the business day are good times during the work week. A display of local technology related to the Challenge industry or problem statement is also a desirable component for a launch event.
  2. Venue - will depend on the expected number of RSVPs. It is often desirable to have the event in an easily accessible venue specially during the work week. Theater style layout would be recommended. Full audiovisual systems (monitors or projectors, and sound systems).
  3. Registration - Make sure to have 1-2 individuals in charge of registration and badging. Name badges should be printed ahead of time for easy access and flow. Make sure to record last minute attendees without pre-made badges for full attendance accounting.
  4. Catering - depending on the time of day, launch events normally come with a reception. FInger food and drinks to allow people to network and stay after official programming.
  5. Sponsors -Additional sponsors for the event including in-kind support for venue, catering or volunteers to work in registration is desirable and should be set up at least 3-4 months in advance. Encourage or invite key partners and sponsors to display their banners at the event.
  6. MC and Speakers - Identify a high level key note speaker to incentivize RSVPs, together with other relevant speakers who can speak to:
    • The Challenge Problem Statement or Focus Industry
    • Challenge Goals at a local or national level
    • Challenge Mechanics and Info
    • The Space Technology being leveraged and example success stories
  7. Public Relations and Comms - Make sure to allocate an area at the venue for before and after interviews from media representatives. Brochures about the Challenge and its mechanics should be available for distribution during the event. If at all possible, livestreaming the event to reach a bigger audience is desirable and should be set up. Hiring a videographer/photographer to capture images and video for future media collateral needs is essential.


  1. Date - Demo day should be scheduled no earlier than 2 weeks after Finalists announcement to give ample time for finalists to plan their schedule and prep for the demonstration and pitch presentation. It is normally scheduled back to back with the final presentations and award ceremony the following day. Allow at least half a day for demonstrations at 10-15 minutes or longer for each team to do a demonstration and answer questions from the judges.
  2. Venue - Depeding on the nature of the solutions which could be software or hardware, an appropriate venue should be located and confirmed as far in advance as possible. Preferrably no later than the start of the incubator program for the Challenge. Pick a venue that is easily accessible and large enough to accommodate all finalist teams, judges and Challenge personnel. Besides a main room for demonstration and judging, additional areas or side rooms should be provided for team preparation and for potential judges consultation. Standard audio visual needs including a strong wifi is desirable. Make sure to check for any venue restrictions and requirements prior to the event.
  3. Catering - Depending on the time of day, refreshments for the teams, judges and staff should be accounted for.
  4. Sponsors - Just like the launch, sponsorship for the venue and catering for the event should be confirmed a few months in advance
  5. MC or Facilitator - Designate a Facilitator or MC for the day to keep time and introduce judges and teams.
  6. Public Relations and Comms - As part of the Comms plan, invite media and press for interviews and video coverage opportunities. Check to see if teams have signed media release waivers or opt not to expose their solutions to the public.
  7. Transportation - Provide for team transportation from designated lodging or meeting point to venue if not easily accessible (e.g. farm for demos).
  8. Gazetting - to protect the IP of the presenting teams, this should be lodged by the host for botht he demo and the pitch sessions the next day.

Final Pitches + Awards

  1. Date - Schedule the final pitch sessions and award ceremony no earlier than 2 weeks after finalists announcement and in conjunction with the demo day. The amount of time allocated will depend on the number of finalists pitching. As an example, 5 finalists are a lot more manageable given that each team will need at least 20 minutes for prep, presentation and Q&A from the judges. (e.g. NZ Aerospace Challenge 2019 had 10 finalists and needed 3 hours to go through all pitches excluding the award ceremony. Note that there will need to be a break between the last pitch and the announcement of the winners to give the judges a time to deliberate on the quantitative results of the evaluation (Slideroom platform). Sample Program Agenda:
    • Introduction of Session and Judges (10 mins)
    • Pitch Sessions per Team (15-20 mins per team)
    • Break or Additional Key Note - while Judges Deliberate and Choose Winner (20 - 30 mins)
    • VIP Guest Speaker (5 mins)
    • Announcement of Winners and Awards Ceremony ( 5mins)
    • Thank You and Wrap Up (5 mins)
    • Reception and Networking (30 mins or reception can happen during the judges deliberation)
  2. Venue - Theatre style with the capacity to accommodate the number of people invited. Make sure there is a side room for judges deliberation which can also be used for interviews before or after the formal program. If an Expo is included, there should be ample space to set up banners and exhibit tables for teams to show their solutions and prototypes.
  3. Registration - Make sure to have 1-2 individuals in charge of registration and badging. Name badges should be printed ahead of time for easy access and flow.
  4. Catering - Finger food and drinks for reception and networking.
  5. Sponsors - In-kind sponsors for venue and catering, as well as additional awards to finalists would be desirable. Allow sponsors to put up their banners or participate in the Expo as appropriate.
  6. MC and Speakers - Arrange for an industry savy moderator to facilitate the event. Arrange for a time to run through details with MC prior to the event. Arrange for a keynote speaker and potentially additional presentation during judging deliberation. Topics could be related to solutions in the same problem area of focus or a potential problem area for the next Challenge.
  7. Public Relations and Comms - As part of the Comms plan, invite media and press for interviews and video coverage opportunities. Hire a photographer or videographer to cover the event for later distribution. Live streaming capability would be desirable for this event to reach a wider audience.
  8. Expo - This is a great way for the finalist teams to be able to showcase their solutions to the general public and network. The venue should have enough space for each team to have a table for their equipment or displays. Depending on the size of the venue, sponsors and key partners could also be invited to the exhibit.
  9. Awards - Physical awards such as customized trophies and certificates should be created ahead of time. Sometimes it might be necessary to create temporary certificates for the awards ceremony and send the teams the official ones with their team names printed on them.

Sub Elements

Contacts and Databases

Challenge team will be generating a number of contact lists for the different work steams of the Challenge. Most of these could be generated as Excell files or Google sheets that can be shared among teams. However, for easy distribution of bulk emails and invitations, suggest using a proper CRM tool to centralize all contacts and leads. Some examples of simple to sophisticated cloud based CRMs are - Mail Chimp, HubSpot and Prosper Works.


  • Zoom Rooms (Meeting and Webinar) - Used for conducting webinars for the Incubator Program. We've used the Webinar Room (vs. the free Meeting Room format) to moderate presenter access better. We used the meeting room format for regular challenge team meetings and judges alignment/evaluation sessions.
  • Doodle - used for scheduling incubator team check-ins throughout the programme
  • Google Drive - a centralized repository of sharable documents is essential for organizing documentation and easy simultaneous editing of collateral and information
  • Slack - An intranet for easy communication without clogging email boxes for challenge teams and extended collaborators. Also used for judges as a platform for Q&A and discussions during the evaluation period.


  • SlideRoom (Recruitment Forms) - The online platform used for application and judging process. Off-the-shelf but customizable platform for application form submissions as well as a very intuitive and easy to use evaluatoin platform for assigning judges and scoring applicants.
  • SpaceBase Platform (Incubator Collaboration Platform) - The online platform used for the Incubator program. Features include a discussion forum and resources repository for easy access to the incubator teams. Each team can feature its own project page, metrics and updates.

Road Map, Milestones and Timeline

Sample Challenge RoadMap

Sample Impact

NZ Space Challenge 2018 Outcomes

NZ Space Challenge 2018 Outcomes (SpaceBase)

NZ Aerospace Challenge 2019 Outcomes

External Challenge Resources

"The craft of incentive prize design: Lessons from the public sector" | Deloitte Insights (2014)

Challenge Prizes: A Practical Guide | Nesta