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How Would a Government Science Prize Spur Innovation?

With techology evolving at breakneck speed and our appetite for innovation almost limitless, Congress might be stepping in to sweeten the pot. Bernie Sanders, (I-VT) is proposing a bill that will give giant cash rewards to the savviest scientists. It's not a new idea, prizes for cross-Atlantic flights and a longitude-measuring device have been used successfully in history, but it needs to be handled right to produce results.


According to Slate, the big qualifications that have made initiatives like this successful in the past are:

  • They were usually for solutions to specific, clearly defined problems, rather than being part of a blanket system to reward all innovations.
  • They also allotted a generous amount of time for the feat to be accomplished before the prize expired (if it expired at all.)
  • They offered high rewards that presumably outweighed the costs of research as well as the profits that could be earned from diverting resources into alternate endeavors; and they were high-profile, guaranteeing the prizewinner fame as well as fortune.

What problem would you like to see government offer a prize to tackle?

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