Why are we doing this?
Longitude Prize 2014 marks the 300th anniversary year of the Longitude Act. In 1714 the British government threw down the gauntlet to solve the greatest scientific challenge of the century – how to pinpoint a ship’s location at sea by knowing its longitude.
Without an accurate way to determine longitude, ships were getting lost at sea causing frequent ship wrecks and disrupting global trade. The challenge was eventually solved by watchmaker and carpenter John Harrison who designed the chronometer, the first sea-faring clock that allowed people to pinpoint their exact position at sea.
Over the past two years, our Centre for Challenge Prizes and Astronomer Royal Lord Martin Rees have brought together an illustrious committee to bring the new prize to life and identify some of the greatest challenges facing us today. The Longitude Committee shortlisted six major issues facing humanity today.
Following a public vote, the challenge for Longitude Prize 2014 was revealed as antibiotics.
What are we doing?
At the G8 Summit in June 2013 Prime Minister David Cameron announced that Nesta was developing Longitude Prize 2014.
Challenge ideas from a roundtable with over 40 of the country’s leading scientists, engineers, and politicians, at 10 Downing Street, were subjected to multiple rounds of critical analysis and deliberation, working with over 100 scientists and academics across a variety of disciplines to review, question and comment on them. The Committee selected six challenges to put forward for a public vote.
The six challenges that the public were invited to vote on were:
Flight - How can we fly without damaging the environment?
If aircraft carbon emissions continue to rise they could contribute up to 15 per cent of global warming from human activities within 50 years. This needs to be addressed in order to slow down climate change and its detrimental effects on the planet. The challenge is to design and build an aeroplane that is as close to zero carbon as possible and capable of flying from London to Edinburgh, at comparable speed to today’s aircraft.
Food - How can we ensure everyone has nutritious, sustainable food?
One in eight people worldwide do not get enough food to live a healthy and fulfilled life. With a growing population and limited resources, providing everybody with nutritious, sustainable food is one of the biggest global problems ever faced. The challenge is to invent the next big food innovation, helping to ensure a future where everyone has enough nutritious, affordable and environmentally sustainable food.
Antibiotics – How can we prevent the rise of resistance to antibiotics?
The development of antibiotics has added an average of 20 years to our lives, yet the rise of antimicrobial resistance is threatening to make them ineffective. This poses a significant future risk as common infections become untreatable. The challenge is to create a cost-effective, accurate, rapid, and easy-to-use test for bacterial infections that will allow health professionals worldwide to administer the right antibiotics at the right time.
Paralysis - How can we restore movement to those with paralysis?
In the UK, a person is paralysed every eight hours. Paralysis can emerge from a number of different injuries, conditions and disorders and the effects can be devastating. Every day can be demanding when mobility, bowel control, sexual function and respiration are lost or impaired. The challenge is to invent a solution that gives paralysed people close to the same freedom of movement that most of us enjoy.
Water - How can we ensure everyone can have access to safe and clean water?
Water is becoming an increasingly scarce resource. Forty-four per cent of the world’s population and 28 per cent of the world’s agriculture are in regions of the world where water is scarce. The challenge is to alleviate the growing pressure on the planet’s fresh water by creating a cheap, environmentally sustainable desalination technology.
Dementia - How can we help people with dementia to live independently for longer?
It is estimated that 135 million people worldwide will have dementia by 2050, which will mean a greater personal and financial cost to society. With no existing cure, there is a need to find ways to support a person’s dignity, physical and emotional wellbeing. The challenge is to develop intelligent, affordable integrated technologies that revolutionise care for people with dementia, enabling them to live independent lives.
The challenges were explored on BBC Two's 50th birthday episode of Horizon on 22 May and the British public voted for the challenge they wanted to see solved. There will be up to five years to find a solution.
The prize is supported by the BBC and the National Maritime Museum and the Technology Strategy Board is a funding partner.
Our Centre for Challenge Prizes, launched by Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) in 2012, uses prize-giving initiatives to help solve problems that the business world, social and public sectors have so far either failed to tackle or tackle effectively.
The best ideas can come from anywhere. We think challenge prizes are a great way of inspiring a broad range of people to create innovative solutions to some of our most pressing problems. Browse the Challenge Prizes.
Join the conversation
Keep informed about this exciting challenge by following us on Twitter @Longitude_prize and using the hashtag #LongitudePrize, liking us on Facebook/longitudeprize and signing up to our newsletter at www.longitudeprize.org.