Sunday, June 15, 2008

Update on African Agriculture Prize Proposal

One of the first batch of papers I read when getting interested in the innovation prize area was a William Masters paper on innovation prizes in the area of African agriculture. Here's the latest paper in that effort:

Accelerating innovation with prize rewards: History and typology of technology prizes and a new contest design for innovation in African agriculture - William A. Masters and Benoit Delbecq - As with earlier documents, this one gives a history of some of the major innovation prizes, including the space prizes discussed most often on this blog. These innovation prizes are contrasted with other methods of encouraging innovation. Some disadvantages of typical innovation prizes are discussed, and a new type of prize design is suggested for overcoming these disadvantages. This design is contrasted with the X PRIZE style of innovation prize, where "the new technology's characteristics are pre-specified" and "payment is a fixed sum". In the case of the proposed design the technology characteristics are unknown at prize design time, and prize payment is based on the level of success achieved and measured.

This method is described in the context of a prize for innovations in African agriculture, an area that is described as being particularly suitable for such a prize design. Other fields suggested as appropriate for this class of design include education and energy efficiency.