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.
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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