Kai Ryssdal: The X Prize Foundation is in the news once again today. Another million dollar prize has been awarded to a company that created a much, much better way to clean up oil spills.
Marketplace’s Adriene Hill has more on innovation and the prize economy.
Adriene Hill: The X Challenge winners, a team from Elastec/American Marine, aren’t newcomers to the oil clean-up business — they helped sop up after the BP oil spill.
So you might wonder why they decided it was worth their time to take on the X Challenge, when what they had was already selling.
Jeff Cantrell: Well of course, a million dollars helps.
OK, hard to disagree that. Jeff Cantrell is a company V.P. The publicity — that was good incentive too. So they jumped in.
Cantrell: The challenge, I’m going to say, sped this technology up by at least five years.
Which is exactly the outcome X Prize Foundation CEO Peter Diamandis wants: To use competition to push innovation in big ways.
Peter Diamandis: As humans, we’re genetically bred to compete. We do best when we have a clear target and we are competing against others to get their first.
That competition model isn’t new. Back in 1714, the British government offered a prize to tackle a navigation mystery — longitude. Today, it’s space travel, sopping up oil and a $10,000 challenge to develop a better paper towel.
Alph Bingham: This gives you more diversity and variety of problem-solving perspectives.
Alph Bingham is the founder of Innocentive, a company that runs X Prize-like challenges for business and government groups. He says Innocentive has grown from posting a few challenges a month to four or five a week, as leaders realize the benefits of tapping into everyone’s expertise for answers to their trickiest problems.
I’m Adriene Hill for Marketplace.
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