It's too bad they didn't think of this earlier. It's one of the few government interventions in markets that work - define an objective outcome and create a prize. It's cheaper than picking favorites and it unleashes the power of markets.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency wants to change that, and drastically so. It seeks to cut the design-to-production cycle to two to four years.

So how are they going to do it? Crowdsourcing and prize contests are crucial ingredients in the speed-up recipe.

The crowdsourcing effort will rely on a software initiative, called, which will be a Web portal for gathering, sharing and testing ideas.