Incentive Prizes have been around for a long time. The Longitude Prize of the early 1700s revolutionized nautical exploration, and paved the way for the powerful British Navy of the Colonial era. The Orteig Prize gave birth the modern aviation industry by spurring Lindbergh and his rivals to develop non-stop transatltantic flight capabilities and by popularizing aviation and aviators. Three quarters of a century later, the Orteig Prize provided the inspiration for the Ansari X PRIZE.
But incentive prizes may never have been more popular than they are today. The Google Lunar X PRIZE and the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge are just two examples of the many prizes available today. As shown in the recent report by McKinsey & Company, And the Winner Is..., there are presently about $375,000,000 currently available to be won through a variety of incentive prizes around the world. Clearly, the idea of incentive prizes has some fans!
Today, we saw that incentive prizes have fans even inside the White House. Thomas Kalil, the Deputy Director for Policy with the Office of Science and Technology Policy, has long been interested in prizes. Prior to joining President Obama's White House, he authored Prizes for Technological Innovation" for the Brookings Institute, a paper that proposed "expanding the US government's use of prizes and [Advanced Market Commitments] in five areas: space exploration, African agriculture, vaccines for diseases of the poor, energy and climate change, and learning technologies." He also was one of the featured speakers at the X PRIZE Foundation's recent incentive2innovate conference.
Today, Kalil published a post entitled "Prizes as Incentives for Public-Private Partnerships" at White House / OSTP's official blog. He writes
The [White House's] Open Government Initiative is interested in exploring how the government might partner with foundations, non-profits, philanthropists, and the private sector to support additional high-impact prizes, and to harness the power and reach of “innovation marketplaces” to achieve important goals. ... What prizes do you think the government should consider sponsoring?
It's great to hear such a well respected and influential person asking that question of the public. I hope that all of you--especially the US Citizens--will click through to Kalil's post, read what he has to say, and share your thoughts in the comments to his post!