Friday, June 15, 2007

H-Prize Passes in House of Representatives

The H-Prize Act of 2007, a bill to make a hydrogen energy-related innovation incentive prize program, passed in the House 416-6. According to Inside Higher Ed, a similar bill is pending in the Senate. Every 2 years, four $1 million prizes will be available for various categories of hydrogen-related advances, and $4 million will be available for hydrogen vehicle advances.

Here's some more information from This says the voting numbers were a bit different (but close enough). The projected cost is $1 per American from 2008-2012 (I'm not sure whether they're assuming there will always be prize winners or not). Here's the bill itself. A private, non-profit entity would be in charge of managing the prize, and would be allowed to get sponsor money to help run the prize. Prizes will be awarded for advances in hydrogen production, hydrogen storage, hydrogen distribution, and hydrogen use (as well as hydrogen vehicles). There would also be a $10 million grand prize after 10 years for a "transformational technology". It looks like there would be judges to decide what the best advances are in each category after the fact, rather than a specific technology challenge to meet.
Here's some information from Congressman Lipinski on the prize program.
Some blog comments from Influence Peddler.
I'm not sure I would have picked this particular area, so difficult technically and difficult to bring to the market, out of all possible energy-related prizes. Also, I probably would have designed more specific challenges like the X PRIZEs, Centennial Challenges, and many others. Maybe I would have even "joined forces" with the Automotive X PRIZE or a similar non-profit effort, contributing to that prize or to complimentary goals (such as an 80 MPG version of the Automotive X PRIZE with stricter criteria in other areas related to marketability).
There are many examples of prizes in general areas, but having a competition with a specific, useful, measurable goal strikes me as bringing out more of a competitive spirit, and leaving less to the political whims of the judges. However, we will just have to see how the bill does in the Senate, and if it passes what happens afterwards. It's a good idea to try different variations on the "prizes" theme to see what works, and under what circumstances it works.