Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Next Generation of X-Prizes

I've been a big fan of the X-Prizes because of the first Ansari X-Prize that spurred the creation of the private space industry. Here's a look by Vivek Wadhwa from TechCrunch at the next generation of X-Prizes:

There are several X PRIZE competitions in progress, such as the $30 million Google Lunar X PRIZE—which will reward anyone who can send a robot to the Moon that travels at least 500 meters and transmits video, images, and data back to the Earth. The Wendy Schmidt Oil Cleanup X CHALLENGE is offering $1.4 million to anyone who can speed the pace of cleaning up seawater surface oil resulting from spillage from ocean platforms, tankers, and other sources. And the Archon Genomics X PRIZE is offering $10 million for a device that dramatically reduces the time and cost of sequencing the human genome. [...]

As X PRIZE founder Peter Diamandis explains, unlike venture capital, which backs one possible solution, incentive competitions inspire a multitude of solutions; they build robust industries and ecosystems. The competitions do this by setting a target and goal that multiple players strive toward. And, unlike traditional philanthropy, which often spends only cents in the dollar toward a desired outcome, incentive competitions create tremendous leverage, with the prize purse attracting operating capital, and teams spending multiples of the prize purse. By setting an audacious but achievable target and vetting that target through experts, incentive competitions offer credibility and “air cover” for entrepreneurs, innovators, and inventors who want to pursue a path that would otherwise be considered too risky, Diamandis adds.

It is very possible that some of the of the technologies we discussed over the weekend will come to fruition and change the lives of billions; that investments of a few million dollars will do more good for the world than the billions that are invested in the me-too social media technologies that Silicon Valley is so excited about. My hope is that more of world’s greatest minds do what some did last weekend: brainstorm to save our civilization.

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