The Power of Open Innovation: Lessons from the Hyperloop One Global Challenge | Hyperloop One
Hyperloop One Global Challenge

The Power of Open Innovation: Lessons from the Hyperloop One Global Challenge

Rob Lloyd
CEO, Hyperloop One

Now that we’ve announced the ten winners of the Hyperloop One Global Challenge, bringing to a close a year-long search for the world’s most promising proposed Hyperloop routes, it’s worth looking back at what we’ve learned from the journey. Before the Challenge even began, we were engaged in projects in Finland, with DP World and the Roads and Transport Authority in Dubai, in Russia, and at the Port of L.A. and Long Beach in California. We were starting to see global interest emerging that would be impossible to serve as a two-year-old startup in downtown Los Angeles.

So we took a page from our board member Peter Diamandis and his X Prize Foundation and launched the Global Challenge in May 2016. X Prize challenges set audacious goals to spur significant leaps in space exploration, medicine, energy, and computing. The idea is to cast the widest net possible to break bottlenecks in markets where incumbents have failed to solve hard problems. Our take on it was to challenge teams young or old, expert or amateur, to submit their best proposals for Hyperloop networks connecting cities and regions.

More than 2,600 teams registered. By January 2017 we had narrowed the field down to the 35 strongest teams. We then held standing-room-only events for the contenders in New Delhi, Washington, D.C., and Amsterdam, showcasing their work to leaders from government, industry, and universities. Hours of judging, interviews, and analysis by our engineers and business strategy teams yielded the ten winners of the Challenge. The winning teams will get our support and resources to move their projects toward commercial readiness.

Infographic showing winners of the Hyperloop One Global Challenge

These teams all have well-defined routes and implementation strategies, strong support from public and private stakeholders, compelling business cases, and represent the most innovative and creative applications of Hyperloop One technology. Former U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx, who spoke at our event in Washington, sent us an email congratulating the winners, writing: “Across the world, there is a hunger for new solutions to old problems. Nowhere is that sentiment stronger than in the bold ideas taking root in transportation. The Hyperloop One Global Challenge has internationalized one of the boldest new concepts in the field, and I congratulate the successful teams.”

Governments have a lot of options for solving their transportation headaches, but one thing we hear often is how hungry they are for new, innovative, sustainable transportation solutions. Ministers in Spain, Mexico, the Netherlands, Corsica, and Sardinia all championed Hyperloop One proposals in their countries. The Dutch even ran a national competition to identify a Global Challenge submission. “We need new concepts to keep the Netherlands moving. Concepts which will add new modes of travel on top of the existing infrastructure,” said the Dutch Minister of Infrastructure and the Environment Melanie Schultz van Haegen at our Amsterdam event. “Hyperloop can be the game changer. Fast, quiet, innovative and sustainable.”

India had some of the most ambitious entries and secured two winning routes: Bengaluru-Chennai and Mumbai-Chennai. Amitabh Kant, the CEO of Niti Ayog, India’s agency responsible for transforming the nation’s economy, told attendees at our event in India, “The key to India's growth at a rapid pace is how we transform the process of urbanization. Without disruption, it is not possible. What the Hyperloop presents is a transformational technology which will enable many countries to leapfrog.”

As a direct outcome of the Global Challenge, we now have our first agreement with a U.S. state government. Hyperloop One and the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), with support from AECOM, will enter a public-private partnership to begin a feasibility study in Colorado. Says Shailen Bhatt, Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Transportation: "We are excited to partner with Hyperloop One in exploring the next step of the feasibility of this innovative technology, potentially transforming how Colorado moves. The Hyperloop technology, in general, could directly align with our goals of improving mobility and safety in Colorado, and we have been encouraged by the continued progress the technology is taking."

Hyperloop One Global Challenge showcase in Washington, DC
The showcase at the Hyperloop One Global Challenge Vision For America event in Washington, D.C., April 6, 2017

Other government leaders got just as engaged with their proposals. The leader of the winning Miami-Orlando team is Alice Bravo, Director of the Miami-Dade Department of Transportation and Public Works. The Chicago-Columbus-Pittsburgh route is led by the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission, the agency responsible for transportation planning in the Columbus, Ohio area. William Murdock, Executive Director of MORPC, is thinking creatively about how on-demand and fast freight powered by Hyperloop can impact his region: “In Columbus, we have an international airport that exports food products directly. If you can get perishables to Columbus in 20 minutes, you’re exporting next day from the fields of Indiana to the Middle East or Japan.”

We were also blown away by how much creativity and effort the Challenge unleashed from the private sector, including the world’s top engineering and design firms. AECOM, for example, launched a company-wide call for proposals to its more than 87,000 employees in 150+ countries, yielding several of the winning submissions.

“The excitement around Hyperloop is in its potential to reimagine transportation by eliminating the barriers of distance and time,” said Michael S. Burke, AECOM’s chairman and chief executive officer. “That half of the winning teams are supported by AECOM demonstrates the power of our connected expertise and is further evidence that these are the kinds of problems AECOM is built to take on and solve. We’re excited to be part of Hyperloop One’s efforts to create impactful use cases for a technology that can transform what it means to get from point A to B anywhere in the world.”

Mexico’s leading young architect Fernando Romero, who helped design Mexico City’s New International Airport, is one of the creative minds behind the winning Mexloop proposal to connect Mexico City to Guadalajara via Querétaro and León. Mexloop is a collaboration among representatives from Romero’s firm FR-EE and engineering firms Arup and Sener. Their route would link a population expected to grow to more than 60 million people by 2050. Stations would be strategically located near airports, rail freight hubs, and metro and commuter rail stations to maximize the efficiency of existing transport infrastructure.

I’d like to congratulate all the winners and finalists of the Global Challenge, along with the thousands of people and companies that put so much effort into thinking about how Hyperloop can change the world. “By connecting with partner cities across larger geographies, these projects pragmatically solve big problems that have national implications. Urbanists and policy makers alike can now dream again about the future of space and time in uninhibited ways,” said one of our judges Alan Berger, Norman B. and Muriel Leventhal Professor of Advanced Urbanism at MIT.

You often find great ideas beyond the walls of your own company, and the Challenge exemplifies our belief in an open approach to finding those ideas. The next big step in building our open platform is to bring together all of the winning teams and our government and industry partners early next year at the first Hyperloop One Global Summit. We'll announce a location soon, but I can guarantee it will be an epic gathering of innovators eager to develop hardware, software, and services on the Hyperloop One platform. If we stay true to the open approach, there will be dozens, and ultimately hundreds, of companies actively building a more connected world with us. Together we’ll deliver the world’s first operating Hyperloop systems starting in 2021 and beyond.

Read more about Hyperloop One Global Challenge proposals: