CloseblankPrintblankJudges' TipsblankIncrease text sizeblankDecrease text sizeblankMail
PACE 2020 | Application Tips


The Title is the DESCRIPTIVE NAME for your innovation. (Please DO NOT include/repeat the Company/Business Unit Name.) 

  • Note: This identifier will be used to refer to the innovation in all internal and external communications.)


It is important to understand that there is no advantage in being in one category or another.  There have been years with no award winners in a category and others where over half the Finalists in a category won an award.  During the evaluation process, each innovation is considered independent of its category.

Select the category that best fits your innovation. The PACE administrators use categories to help match the entries to individual judges and to apply category specific criteria.  (Examples include the additional questions for IT applicants or the fact that some process innovations focus on internal customers.)

After evaluating the applications, the Judging panel occasionally moves  innovations to different categories to facilitate "A-B" comparisons between like entries.


The Executive Summary is an important tool for the judges' assessment. We recommended that you start with a rough draft for the Part-1 application. As you complete the application, you should review and revise the abstract as needed. Refining the abstract to ensure that it concisely conveys the essence of your innovation is time well spent.  (If selected as a PACE Award Finalist, the company's senior most representative will be asked to read this abstract aloud to the site visit judging team.)

A perfect abstract is for all intents and purposes an Executive Summary of your entry. It should tell the story of your innovation giving the judges an image of the problem, its scope, the barriers you overcame, its competitive impact and customer acceptance. Try to consider:

  • What problem does this innovation solve
  • Why is your innovation compelling to your customers and your competitors
  • How does this innovation defy conventional wisdom
  • What makes this entry "Innovation" versus simply “good engineering"
  • What elevates your entry beyond evolution of an existing product/process to the level of first/best/only innovation


For examples go to the PACE Awards website and review previous winner citations. Note that citations often have data suppressed to protect competitive interests.

Applying Entity

This is the business unit, to be identified with the innovation.  Automotive News will reference this information when identifying your company.  (e.g. "Supplier XYZ from Auburn Hills, Michigan was selected as a Finalist in this year's Automotive News PACE Awards program.")  



If at all practical, applicants should seriously consider sending samples for Product applications.  The homily a picture is worth a thousand words is even truer when you consider a real example. The PACE Award Judging Panel includes a number of seasoned industry veterans who have sat through numerous PowerPoint presentations and marketing meetings all claiming to be the next big thing, but that experience allows them to immediately understand and grasp real innovation when they see it. 

Similar to the Gemba discipline of going to the actual place, the evaluation of your innovation is facilitated by having the judging panel consider the real thing.  Ideally, you can forward five (5) samples of your innovation, but if that is not practical due to economics or logistics, the next best option is to forward one.   Obviously some product innovations are impossible to sample, and in those cases, we hope you will take advantage of digital media to provide video and/or photographs to facilitate understanding the innovation in your application.

Note: Samples cannot be returned and are destroyed following the judging process.

Innovation Barriers

Innovation is frequently an uncommon solution to a problem that is common to your customers and competitors.  In most cases, everybody understands the problem, but innovation represents a breakthrough or a radical departure from the norm.  In this question, the judges want to understand:

  • What allowed you to take a different path, (i.e. depart from the commonsense notion of best practices.) to come up with the innovation?  How does your innovation defy conventional wisdom?
  • What were the challenges in sheparding the innovation through internal and customer challenges of: That's not what we asked for! or That's not how we do things around here.
  • What were the significant challenges in developing the innovation and bringing it to market?
    • Describe the product, process, customer, materials and/or methods barriers that were overcome
    • Briefly discuss the option(s) considered and the advantages of the chosen solution.
  • What allowed you to take a different path, (i.e. depart from the commonsense notion of best practices.) to come up with the innovation?.

In simple clear terms define how the innovation overcame the barriers you described

Competitive Analysis

This is often a challenging section for applicants as there is a reluctance to say much about their competitors good or bad, but it is important for the judges to get  your candid assessment of the competitive landscape.

Assuming the problems/opportunities you identified earlier sections impact all OEMs and suppliers

  • What is today's State of the Art?
    • How are OEMs and suppliers NOT using this innovation responding?
  • The application is structured to collect all the information needed to evaluate most innovations. However, if you believe that there are additional elements that would help the judges to understand the innovation, please include them in this area.

Detailed Overview

You should not assume that the judges are experts in your business or products. Use this section to give the judges a understanding of the scope and the root cause of the problem your innovation solved.

  • In discussing the scope of the problem, include your company, your OEM customers, consumers, and the industry at large.
  • Give the judges a clear sense of how your innovation is both customer driven AND driving the industry.

Patents & Awards

The PACE Awards Jury understands that awards and patents are frequently not significant markers of innovation (e.g. When the company adopts a strategy of trade secrets to protect intellectual property.) However, It can be useful to know about any awards or patents the innovation has received.


Optional: Exceptional OEM Collaboration

This is an OPTIONAL section 

In this section we are looking for OEM best practices in partnering and collaboration that are well beyond the norm in today’s collaborative engineering environment. 

  • What did the OEM partner do that you consider extraordinary during the development/deployment of this innovation?
  • What were the key take-aways from the experience with this OEM that you have attempted or will attempt in your next OEM development project?

Customer References

First and foremost the judges are looking for OEM customer references. Note, references from suppliers and/or affiliated divisions do not carry much weight in the judging process.

  • Senior references who can speak for the OEM are preferred.
  • It is important for the judges to understand the role a references played in the realization of this innovation.

Are there any special considerations that should be known prior to the reference check?

  • Sensitive or confidential areas
  • Competitive OEM data in the application that should NOT be shared with this reference

Note: You may have confidence that during reference checks, no commercial data from the application is shared with the reference other than claims of OEM savings (Amount./Percent)

Feedback & Assistance: Entire contents ©2019 — Crain Communications, Inc. — All rights reserved.
Privacy Policy