Agencies held twice as many competitions in 2014 as they did in 2012, according to a new report from the federal Office of Science and Technology Policy.  Complex technology challenges requiring innovative solutions are at the top of the list of scenarios where a federal agency might use a competition instead of a traditional procurement.  The use of competitions is a double-edged sword for contractors.  On one hand, they offer a way for new and smaller firms to stand out from the crowd with cutting edge ideas that may not be offered by traditional vendors.  On the other hand, “winning” a competition doesn’t usually provide the same monetary reward as a contract.  Although prizes, usually cash in nature, are “awarded”, the money involved is usually much less than a traditional purchase would have behind it, even though your effort would be the same or more.  The best case scenario for a contractor is to enter a competition where the requirement is well-defined and reasonably sized.  This enables you to show off without putting too much time and effort at risk.  Not surprisingly, company participation in competitions is increasing along with federal usage.  Like any opportunity, however, remember there is such a thing as bad business and be careful how you expend your resources.