Credit: Library of Congress

 

Government, Industry Look To Prizes To Spur Innovation

By Graham Warwick
Source: Aviation Week & Space Technology

March 04, 2013

Graham Warwick Washington

Whether it is government budgets or corporate profits, when money gets tight in a downturn, investment in research and development suffers. The effects may not be immediate, but the impact on turning ideas into innovations and innovations into products can be profound and long-lasting.

In the search for more cost-efficient—and quicker—ways to innovate, government and industry are turning to the age-old mechanism of offering prizes to spur innovation and solve problems, with the modern twist of using the Internet and social media to cast a wide net in the search for solutions.

The appeal of prizes is clear. They are a way to draw ideas from people who would not normally do business with a government or corporation, a way to gather diverse views on how to solve a problem—and they only pay out if successful. They can provide significant financial leverage for the sponsor, with the combined investment by competitors far exceeding the prize purse.

Prizes have a long history of producing innovations. The Longitude Prize was offered by the British government in 1714, with rewards of up to £20,000 (worth more than $2 million today) for a practical method of determining a ship’s longitude to within 30 nm. English clockmaker John Harrison won with his invention of the marine chronometer.

Read more: Government, Industry Look To Prizes To Spur Innovation — Aviation Week & Space Technology.

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