The mission of the Nesta Challenge Prize Centre is to foster innovation for social benefit. This involves encouraging innovators to come up with solutions that are not currently being provided by the market, and so could be thought of as the correction of market failure.
A classic example of market failure is air pollution. London's illegal levels of nitrogen dioxide and unsafe concentrations of particulates are proving a stubborn problem to tackle, and we believe there is a role for a challenge prize to stimulate innovations to reduce pollution that are currently seen as unprofitable, or that could benefit from a wider pool of innovators.
We've scoped out some innovation challenges and opportunities and outlined some potential topics for challenge prizes in a new report.
Air pollution is a complex issue, and so to help us with our work on accelerating clean air in the capital, we're bringing experts and stakeholders together at our offices at Nesta HQ for a roundtable event on 15 March, part of the Challenges of Our Era Forum series.
We've identified the following areas where innovation can accelerate the reduction of air pollution in the big smoke:
1. Improved low cost sensors and internet of things platforms To increase public engagement, create smart infrastructure and support regulation.
2. Open and big data The increasing volume of air quality-related data can be mined for insights that can influence infrastructure design and consumer and procurer behavior, putting pressure on industry and government to act.
3. Reconceptualising urban mobility Reducing the number of cars on the road through car sharing, alternative transport use, and new freight models.
4. Next generation aftertreatment systems for both OEM and retrofit Miniaturised, low cost, light weight catalytic systems that are more robust to diverse operating conditions and usable across engine and vehicle types.
5. Supporting roll out of the clean energy transition Innovative means to finance vehicle purchases, increase supporting infrastructure, and discourage continued use of high emissions engines through scrappage schemes and new regulatory regimes.
We've thought about how these challenges and opportunities might feed into an innovation inducement prize and have come up with the following list of possibilities:
This is a starting point for the discussion, and at the Forum we aim to refine these ideas further and hopefully come up with some new ones...
Photo credit: Olivier Usher