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Performance management handbook (recognition) - appendix i

U.S. Department of Commerce

Ron Brown Excellence in Innovation Award


To recognize unusually significant accomplishments that resulted in the implementation of innovative and creative solutions to Department problems and challenges. 


Ron Brown was a visionary who saw public service as an opportunity to make extraordinary contributions to the future of our country. In his first all-hands meeting as Secretary of Commerce, he challenged employees to innovate, to be creative, and to really produce a dynamic organization. He knew the men and women of the Department were an untapped reservoir of creativity, and he opened his door to wide-ranging suggestions and recommendations on how to make improvements throughout the bureaus.

Ron Brown wanted the Department of Commerce to set the standard for excellence and cutting-edge products and services. He encouraged taking risks and challenging traditional ways of doing things. 

Creating the Ron Brown Excellence in Innovation Award will honor his legacy and his commitment to innovation and creativity as critical tools in making the Department a leader in service to our customers and to the American people.


Commerce employees (at all grade levels) are eligible. Contractors, consultants, private citizens, and employees of other Federal agencies are not eligible. Individuals and groups (up to a maximum of five members) are eligible. 


The Ron Brown Excellence in Innovation Award will be presented annually. 

Types of Accomplishments

Accomplishments must demonstrate one or more of the following:

  • Novel, unique, creative, cutting-edge solutions resulting in inventive products, processes, or services.
  • Improved processes that save time or money through over-and-above innovative service to key constituencies.
  • Exceptional resourcefulness, innovation, or creativity to help customers resolve problems/issues. 
  • Reasonable and calculated risk-taking that resulted in an innovative solution to a long- standing problem or issue.
  • Development of imaginative solutions that resulted in improved service delivery to stakeholders.

Eligible Nominations 

The recipients of the Department’s Gold Medal (in all categories except Heroism) will be used to identify the pool of candidates for the Ron Brown Excellence in Innovation Award Program. Only current year Gold Medal recipients are eligible. 

Nomination Process

In July, after the Secretary has approved the Honor Awards recipients for the current year, those bureaus with Gold Medal recipients will be contacted by the Department’s Incentive Awards Officer to inquire about submitting a nomination for this award based on the Gold Medal accomplishment. 

All award nominations must be submitted on the award form and adhere to limits spelled out on the form instructions. The award nomination must be transmitted electronically and include a memorandum signed by the bureau Secretarial Officer/Head of the Operating Unit approving the nominations. All nominations must be submitted to the Department's Incentive Awards Officer by the due date. To be considered, complete nominations must be received electronically on or before the deadline identified in the email call for nominations. 

Selection Criteria

The following factors will be considered in evaluating the nominations:

  • Caliber of Work
    • Is it exceptional? Is it relevant to the bureau/Department mission? 
    • To what degree does the innovation demonstrate a leap in creativity?
    • How innovative/novel was it? Is it cutting edge?
    • To what degree was risk involved in the solution? 
    • Does the work/effort/deliverable demonstrate excellence in innovation?
    • Does it significantly exceed customer needs/expectations?
  • Significance
    • Is the innovation significant to the bureau, Department, or to a larger external, technical audiences, multiple industries, the public, or is it much more limited in scope and significance? 
    • What is the WOW factor?
    • Is it groundbreaking? What was the innovation? How big a risk was taken?
    • Has it been done before? Does the accomplishment/work solve a long-standing problem? Does it save time and money? Is there a documented need for it or is it just nice to have? 
  • Demonstrated Impact
    • Did the innovation result in transformative improvements in service, efficiency, value, effectiveness, outcome, or satisfaction?
    • Did the innovation bring credit and enhanced prestige to the Department?
    • Has the accomplishment been realized? Is the impact sustainable? 
    • Does it encompass significant change or innovation affecting a bureau(s) or the Department?
    • Is there a market for the innovation outside of the Department?  

Selection Procedures

The Department's Incentive Awards Board will review the nominations using the criteria listed above. Once the Board completes the voting process, the Department’s Incentive Awards Officer will submit the Board’s one recommendation (either an Individual or a Group of up to five members) to the Secretary for final approval. 

Type of Recognition

Recipients of the Ron Brown Excellence in Innovation Award will receive a framed certificate and platinum medal with a ribbon. This is an honorary award. 

Award Presentation

The award will be presented at the Annual Honor Awards Ceremony held in the last week of September each year.