How To Change The World And Solve Global Problems With Cash Prizes

How To Change The World And Solve Global Problems With Cash Prizes
Shutterstock

Challenge prizes – which offer a cash incentive to those working to solve a particular problem – are becoming a force for change by allowing entrepreneurs and innovators, often overlooked by existing grant and procurement systems, to develop solutions to the world’s greatest problems.

They have a long history. In 1927, Charles Lindbergh received the US$25,000 Orteig Prize for aviation when he made the first non-stop flight from New York to Paris in the Spirit of St Louis, catapulting aviation forward in the process. Earlier, in 1714, the £20,000 Longitude Prize went to John Harrison, a watchmaker from Grimsby and inventor of the chronometer, who came up with a timepiece reliable enough to accurately measure longitude and inspired a whole movement of other approaches to navigating at sea.

In the early 2000s, the Ansari XPRIZE launched challenge prizes into the modern era. The competition incentivised the development of privately funded space travel and had a US$10m prize purse. Breakthroughs made as a result of this competition contributed to a private space industry worth over US$2 billion today.

There’s no shortage of problems that would benefit. Climate change, artificial intelligence (AI), urbanisation, an ageing population, and a host of other factors, are altering the environment, economies and societies at breakneck speed.

So how do we solve the issues that these changes generate?

How they work

The challenge prize formula is simple: offer a financial reward for the first or best solution to a problem, attract the best innovators from a wide range of specialisms, and give them support to compete. In 2009, a McKinsey study concluded that when challenges have been well designed and run, “they have helped the world meet some of society’s greatest challenges, and overcome some of its most difficult problems”.

Our team partnered with Toyota Mobility Foundation, for example, to create Mobility Unlimited, a global challenge to come up with radical improvements in mobility and independence for people with lower-limb paralysis through smarter assistive technology.

Innovators from around the world submitted new technologies – and the five recently-announced finalists received US$500,000 each to develop their ideas. The overall winner, announced in 2020, will receive US$1m.

Innovations so far include a smart wearable leg sleeve that helps people with partial lower limb paralysis regain their mobility, and a highly mobile, powered exoskeleton which offers fast, stable and agile upright mobility.

The US recognises that challenge prizes can be a more effective driver of innovation than grant or procurement funding, especially when you are unsure where the best innovation will come from. Rather than attract innovators from a very specific area and background, as existing grant and procurement systems can, challenge prizes cast the net wider – they are essentially open to all. This means that potential solutions to a problem are worked on by people from a diverse array of fields.

In fact, in America, they are actually supported through legislation in the form of the US Competes Act and the US government uses all sorts of challenges to develop breakthroughs, ranging from subterranean technologies to redesigning dialysis.

Garden shed to global change

Challenge prizes incentivise innovators from the unlikeliest places and from any background to use technology or other solutions to solve serious problems.

For example, the 2017 Inventor Prize was funded by the UK government to uncover Britain’s “hidden inventors” – the garden shed and kitchen table creatives whose gizmos could transform the lives of others, if only they knew about them.

how to change the world and solve global problems with cash prizes
Is innovation the answer to the climate crisis?  Image by Gerd Altmann

Finalists included a high-tech catheter, a Kindle-like device for the blind, a smart gum shield that could save athletes’ lives by monitoring head movement, and a 3D-printed prosthetic arm for babies and toddlers, designed by a father for his young son. The winning NeuroBall aims to revolutionise – and make fun – stroke rehabilitation by pairing a person’s hand movements with progress on video games that can be played at home.

But cash prizes don’t just create solutions to narrow, technical problems, they can raise awareness of a broader issue, shape policy and inform regulators. Done right, they can create whole new technologies and markets.

Nesta’s Longitude Prize, for example, aims to stem the tidal wave of antibiotic resistance that kills approximately 700,000 people a year globally. By 2050, the annual death toll could rise to 10m.

Launched in November 2014 with a £10m prize fund, the prize challenges researchers around the world to invent an affordable, accurate, fast and easy-to-use test for bacterial infections. Over 250 teams from 41 countries entered – and 82 teams from 14 countries are still in the race to win the final £8m payout.

Environmental solutions

Many challenge prizes are tackling environmental problems, too. The Global Cooling Prize is a great example, incentivising the development of a residential cooling solution that will have at least five times less climate impact than today’s standard units. This could both reduce climate emissions and enhance the living standards of people in developing countries

The Data Driven Farming Prize, meanwhile, was launched with the US Agency for International Development (USAID) in February 2017 and challenged innovators from around world to harness technology to create apps, sensors, software and widgets capable of improving smallholders’ productivity through the provision of information on things such as fertilisers, pest control and soil moisture.

Four winners – two came from Nepal and two hadn’t worked in agriculture before – were announced in September 2017. They included db2Map, from Nepal, which created GeoKrishi, a web and mobile platform with agricultural information tailored to a user’s location, and PEAT’s Plantix app, a “plant doctor for your pocket”, which provides instant diagnoses of crop diseases from pictures taken by farmers on their mobile phones, as well as advice on how to treat them.

As the world becomes ever more complex, we need creativity to quickly and efficiently solve the problems of the future – and challenge prizes are an effective way of ensuring we uncover the very best innovations.The Conversation

About the Author

Tris Dyson, Executive Director of Nesta’s Challenges, Nesta and Piotr Gierszewski, Researcher, Nesta

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Related Books

Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming

by Paul Hawken and Tom Steyer
9780143130444In the face of widespread fear and apathy, an international coalition of researchers, professionals, and scientists have come together to offer a set of realistic and bold solutions to climate change. One hundred techniques and practices are described here—some are well known; some you may have never heard of. They range from clean energy to educating girls in lower-income countries to land use practices that pull carbon out of the air. The solutions exist, are economically viable, and communities throughout the world are currently enacting them with skill and determination. Available On Amazon

Designing Climate Solutions: A Policy Guide for Low-Carbon Energy

by Hal Harvey, Robbie Orvis, Jeffrey Rissman
1610919564With the effects of climate change already upon us, the need to cut global greenhouse gas emissions is nothing less than urgent. It’s a daunting challenge, but the technologies and strategies to meet it exist today. A small set of energy policies, designed and implemented well, can put us on the path to a low carbon future. Energy systems are large and complex, so energy policy must be focused and cost-effective. One-size-fits-all approaches simply won’t get the job done. Policymakers need a clear, comprehensive resource that outlines the energy policies that will have the biggest impact on our climate future, and describes how to design these policies well. Available On Amazon

This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate

by Naomi Klein
1451697392In This Changes Everything Naomi Klein argues that climate change isn’t just another issue to be neatly filed between taxes and health care. It’s an alarm that calls us to fix an economic system that is already failing us in many ways. Klein meticulously builds the case for how massively reducing our greenhouse emissions is our best chance to simultaneously reduce gaping inequalities, re-imagine our broken democracies, and rebuild our gutted local economies. She exposes the ideological desperation of the climate-change deniers, the messianic delusions of the would-be geoengineers, and the tragic defeatism of too many mainstream green initiatives. And she demonstrates precisely why the market has not—and cannot—fix the climate crisis but will instead make things worse, with ever more extreme and ecologically damaging extraction methods, accompanied by rampant disaster capitalism. Available On Amazon

From The Publisher:
Purchases on Amazon go to defray the cost of bringing you InnerSelf.comelf.com, MightyNatural.com, and ClimateImpactNews.com at no cost and without advertisers that track your browsing habits. Even if you click on a link but don't buy these selected products, anything else you buy in that same visit on Amazon pays us a small commission. There is no additional cost to you, so please contribute to the effort. You can also use this link to use to Amazon at any time so you can help support our efforts.

 

enafarzh-CNzh-TWdanltlfifrdeiwhihuiditjakomsnofaplptruesswsvthtrukurvi

follow InnerSelf on

facebook icontwitter iconyoutube iconinstagram iconpintrest iconrss icon

 Get The Latest By Email

Weekly Magazine Daily Inspiration

LATEST VIDEOS

The Great Climate Migration Has Begun
The Great Climate Migration Has Begun
by Super User
The climate crisis is forcing thousands around the world to flee as their homes become increasingly uninhabitable.
The Last Ice Age Tells Us Why We Need To Care About A 2℃ Change In Temperature
The Last Ice Age Tells Us Why We Need To Care About A 2℃ Change In Temperature
by Alan N Williams, et al
The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) states that without a substantial decrease…
Earth Has Stayed Habitable For Billions Of Years – Exactly How Lucky Did We Get?
Earth Has Stayed Habitable For Billions Of Years – Exactly How Lucky Did We Get?
by Toby Tyrrell
It took evolution 3 or 4 billion years to produce Homo sapiens. If the climate had completely failed just once in that…
How Mapping The Weather 12,000 Years Ago Can Help Predict Future Climate Change
How Mapping The Weather 12,000 Years Ago Can Help Predict Future Climate Change
by Brice Rea
The end of the last ice age, around 12,000 years ago, was characterised by a final cold phase called the Younger Dryas.…
The Caspian Sea Is Set To Fall By 9 Metres Or More This Century
The Caspian Sea Is Set To Fall By 9 Metres Or More This Century
by Frank Wesselingh and Matteo Lattuada
Imagine you are on the coast, looking out to sea. In front of you lies 100 metres of barren sand that looks like a…
Venus Was Once More Earth-like, But Climate Change Made It Uninhabitable
Venus Was Once More Earth-like, But Climate Change Made It Uninhabitable
by Richard Ernst
We can learn a lot about climate change from Venus, our sister planet. Venus currently has a surface temperature of…
Five Climate Disbeliefs: A Crash Course In Climate Misinformation
The Five Climate Disbeliefs: A Crash Course In Climate Misinformation
by John Cook
This video is a crash course in climate misinformation, summarizing the key arguments used to cast doubt on the reality…
The Arctic Hasn't Been This Warm For 3 Million Years and That Means Big Changes For The Planet
The Arctic Hasn't Been This Warm For 3 Million Years and That Means Big Changes For The Planet
by Julie Brigham-Grette and Steve Petsch
Every year, sea ice cover in the Arctic Ocean shrinks to a low point in mid-September. This year it measures just 1.44…

LATEST ARTICLES

green energy2 3
Four Green Hydrogen Opportunities for the Midwest
by Christian Tae
To avert a climate crisis, the Midwest, like the rest of the country, will need to fully decarbonize its economy by…
ug83qrfw
Major Barrier to Demand Response Needs to End
by John Moore, On Earth
If federal regulators do the right thing, electricity customers across the Midwest may soon be able to earn money while…
trees to plant for climate2
Plant These Trees To Improve City Life
by Mike Williams-Rice
A new study establishes live oaks and American sycamores as champions among 17 “super trees” that will help make cities…
north sea sea bed
Why We Must Understand Seabed Geology To Harness The Winds
by Natasha Barlow, Associate Professor of Quaternary Environmental Change, University of Leeds
For any country blessed with easy access to the shallow and windy North Sea, offshore wind will be key to meeting net…
3 wildfire lessons for forest towns as Dixie Fire destroys historic Greenville, California
3 wildfire lessons for forest towns as Dixie Fire destroys historic Greenville, California
by Bart Johnson, Professor of Landscape Architecture, University of Oregon
A wildfire burning in hot, dry mountain forest swept through the Gold Rush town of Greenville, California, on Aug. 4,…
China Can Meet Energy and Climate Goals Capping Coal Power
China Can Meet Energy and Climate Goals Capping Coal Power
by Alvin Lin
At the Leader’s Climate Summit in April, Xi Jinping pledged that China will “strictly control coal-fired power…
Blue water surrounded by dead white grass
Map tracks 30 years of extreme snowmelt across US
by Mikayla Mace-Arizona
A new map of extreme snowmelt events over the last 30 years clarifies the processes that drive rapid melting.
A plane drops red fire retardant on to a forest fire as firefighters parked along a road look up into the orange sky
Model predicts 10-year burst of wildfire, then gradual decline
by Hannah Hickey-U. Washington
A look at the long-term future of wildfires predicts an initial roughly decade-long burst of wildfire activity,…

 Get The Latest By Email

Weekly Magazine Daily Inspiration

New Attitudes - New Possibilities

InnerSelf.comClimateImpactNews.com | InnerPower.net
MightyNatural.com | WholisticPolitics.com | InnerSelf Market
Copyright ©1985 - 2021 InnerSelf Publications. All Rights Reserved.