Stimulating Technological Innovation via Incentive Prizes

Tuesday, January 29, 2013 - 3:15pm - 4:15pm
Regents 109
John Shore
Adjunct Professor of Physics and SPI Energy Scholar

Incentive prizes can be thought of as a dramatically different approach to funding R&D. The basic difference is simple – instead of paying someone to try and solve an important problem, one pays someone who has solved the problem. Incentive prizes have a long history, having resulted in advances in such fields as navigation, chemistry, aeronautics, robotics, spaceflight, and collaborative filtering. From a funder’s viewpoint, Incentive prizes have several advantages; for example, there’s no need to choose in advance those most likely to solve the problem, and the funding isn’t spent unless the problem is solved. This talk will present an overview of incentive prizes, including their history, mechanics, advantages, and disadvantages. And it will include a summary of the Georgetown University Energy Prize (GUEP), which is currently being developed. The GUEP will challenge U.S. communities to work together with their local governments and utilities in order to develop and begin implementing plans for innovative, replicable, scalable and continual reductions in the energy-per-capita consumed from local natural gas and electric utilities.