- The competition host prepares the data and a description of the problem. Kaggle offers a consulting service which can help the host do this, as well as frame the competition, anonymize the data, and integrate the winning model into their operations.
- Participants experiment with different techniques and compete against each other to produce the best models. For most competitions, submissions are scored immediately (based on their predictive accuracy relative to a hidden solution file) and summarized on a live leaderboard.
- After the deadline passes, the competition host pays the prize money in exchange for "a worldwide, perpetual, irrevocable and royalty free license [...] to use the winning Entry", i.e. the algorithm, software and related intellectual property developed, which is "non-exclusive unless otherwise specifies

I have seen interesting designs and topics. It is, no doubt, a very interesting source and might even provide a good topic for a thesis, from the practical point of view. I have yet to study it more deeply.