Centre for Challenge Prizes launches
Yesterday we launched the new Centre for Challenge Prizes, with the Minister David Willetts, Jason Crusan from NASA and Cristin Dorgelo from the White House.
This is an exciting and ambitious initiative which we hope will inject some creative energy into problem solving.
The field of inducement prizes is both very old - stretching back to the prize covered so brilliantly in the book 'Longitude'.
It's had a great deal of renewed interest over the last few years with prizes from foundations, governments and Nesta's own Big Green Challenge.
Our aim is to build up a centre that can both run prizes and act as a centre of expertise, helping others in the field to get better at their design and operation
A River or a Mountain
I said at the launch that science and technological research can be thought of as either like navigating a river or climbing a mountain.
Some research is best funded by giving inventors free rein to explore and discover. Like a raft meandering down a river on its way to the sea, there may be many twists and turns and a surprising endpoint.
The other approach is to challenge inventors to climb a mountain that's all too visible. Prizes exist to unleash the mountaineer in all of us and to tap the motivation to master a difficult problem. At their best they reach sources of inspiration that traditional research funding can't - encouraging outsiders as well as insiders to show what they're capable of.
More Prizes Coming
It was appropriate to have NASA there - not just because the mission to the moon in the 1960s was one of the best examples of the 'mountain' approach to innovation, but also because it's a very rare example of a public institution which used competing teams to come up with the best answer.
Watch this space for more on the specific prizes we're launching, one on carbon measurement, and another group on cycling.