Chassis on which the crowdsourced military vehicle will be built. Photo: Local Motors.

Prizes have enormous potential to foster radical solutions to tough problems. It’s because of a prize that Charles Lindbergh flew across the Atlantic in 1927. It was to win a prize that Scaled Composites launched the first commercial manned spaceship in 2004.

DARPA kickstarted the autonomous vehicle industry (coming to a driveway near you soon) through a series of races with prizes held out as incentives. Now, DOD’s maverick research arm is offering a prize for a winning design of a next-generation military vehicle.

The Experimental Crowd-derived Combat-support Vehicle (XC2V) Design Challenge offers a first-prize winner $7,500 for a design from which a drivable concept car will be built.

Micro-manufacturing pioneer Local Motors is administering the prize and running the competition from a dedicated XC2V web page. The winning design will be built on the Local Motors tubular steel chassis for its Rally Fighter vehicle, and will be powered by a GM V8 engine. The objective: a fast, agile vehicle ideal for delivering food and medicines to combat areas, or for non-combat evacuations. The competition opens February 10 and ends March 10.

The beauty of a prize such as this, from the point of view of those offering it, is that it harnesses the talents of a potentially great number of participants, for very little money. It’s also a potentially much faster way of doing things than going out and recruiting engineers and hiring them to work on a project that might or might not pan out. Offer a prize, and you pay only for results—results that rise to the top of a competitive field.