Saturday, November 22, 2008

Evaluating Innovation Prizes

Can X Prizes Spur Innovation? - Business Week:

A key problem with incentive prizes is that devising one—the kind that attracts capable contestants along with the media focus that motivates well-heeled sponsors to commit big money—is harder than it seems. The goal has to be tantalizing, but the odds can't be so long that the task is impossible. So far, space challenges appear to work best. For starters, there are millions of sci-fi fans around the world. Another promising field is autos, which also has plenty of enthusiasts. In 2010, Diamandis could stir up a frenzy when he promotes his high-mileage car contest with a road rally through a half-dozen U.S. cities. ...

Last April his foundation said it would host a $10 million competition for biofuels, with later awards for the creation of a clean aviation fuel, improved energy storage, and a system to provide water, electricity, and broadband service to villages in the developing world. But the group has pushed back deadlines as Diamandis' deputies studied "hundreds of ideas," says Jaison Morgan, who heads the prize development office. "There are breakthroughs, but not one bold enough for us now. We want a prize that will revolutionize things, to capture the public's imagination."

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