To solve today’s problems, you need new ways of thinking. Gone are the days of the lone genius tinkering in his workshop; today’s global difficulties necessitate worldwide cooperation, bringing individuals with diverse talents together to try to solve problems in novel ways. And it’s not always the case that the typical suspects are the only ones with decent ideas.
Challenge awards have had a resurgence as instruments for creativity during the last 20 years.
The method’s attraction is apparent in a world where we can crowdsource solutions to our questions via social media. Challenge awards ask a specific question and award a monetary prize to the person who can answer it the fastest. They not only attract more innovators from a wider range of areas, but they also provide better solutions.
Prizes aren’t a novel concept. The Longitude Prize, established in 1714 to find a way to correctly determine longitude at sea, yielded the discovery that let Britannia control the waves. Because knowing the time is the essential to correctly navigating by the stars, John Harrison built a portable clock that accomplished just that and earned over £23,000.
However, the Board of Longitude also awarded lesser awards to a number of other innovators. Because the Longitude Prize didn’t specify that the answer had to be a clock, the winners included a wide range of approaches to the challenge, from new astronomical methodologies to better sextant designs.
Prizes have been reinstated today. The original Longitude Prize’s extreme openness – almost total agnosticism about what the answer should look like – is astonishingly well matched to how innovation operates now. The solutions are more robust since anyone with the necessary abilities may submit an entry.
To solve today’s problems, you need new ways of thinking. What better approach to ensure that technology is varied than to enable a wide variety of problem solvers to develop it?
We created a new Longitude Prize in 2014 to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the Longitude Act: this time, it’s to assist combat the worrying increase of drug-resistant diseases.
Antibiotics have been less effective over the last 70 years, precisely as the availability of new antibiotic medicines has slowed: we’re losing the fight against superbugs. There is also little motivation to fix the problem. Drug firms aren’t rewarded for selling fewer medications, and physicians aren’t compensated for not prescribing them.
As a result, the new Longitude Prize is focused on developing new diagnostic tests that can determine whether or not a person needs antibiotics, therefore lowering the widespread use of antibiotics for those who do not require them.
However, other than a few essential requirements, we’re open to any viable solution to the problem. Engineers, physicians, and chemists might be able to solve it with the help of a machine, a reagent, or some clever software. We don’t mind if it meets our eight requirements, which include being inexpensive and accurate.
So far, 250 teams from more than 40 nations have signed up to compete for the prize.
In acknowledgment of the fact that not every contender starts on an equal footing, we’ve awarded over £250,000 in seed money to potential teams, with one round dedicated particularly to India’s strong but underfunded biotechnology sector. Antibiotics have become less effective as a result of poor use during the last 70 years, just as the availability of new antibiotic medicines has slowed:
The race against superbugs is slipping away from us. There is also little motivation to fix the problem. Drug firms aren’t rewarded for selling fewer medications, and physicians aren’t compensated for not prescribing them.
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