The Great Innovation Challenge: How challenge prizes can kickstart the British economy

The government’s ambitious plans to boost science and innovation are a golden opportunity for bold, game-changing investments.

Challenge prizes are a tried and tested method for incentivising and supporting innovation, and for ensuring that R&D is responsive to the needs and aspirations of our society. While the UK was a pioneer in using challenge prizes, including the Longitude Prize of 1714, it is now the US that leads in their use.

In the paper below, we set out how an ambitious programme of challenge prizes could play a vital role in the revitalised UK innovation funding system envisioned in the government’s R&D Roadmap.

We have also included a summary for policymakers under the report below.

Summary for policy-makers

Below you will find our three page summary for policymakers with the key take-aways from the report.

We argue prizes should be a strategic part of the innovation funding mix in the UK, across a wide range of sectors, rather than the ad hoc use they have had so far. They can play a role in legitimising new sectors and demonstrating the benefits of new technologies.

We tentatively identify seven themes that we think have promise – and that illustrate how a national programme of challenge prizes could drive forward work on ambitious moonshots.

• Smart green shipping.
• Living maps.
• New materials for clean air.
• Carbon sequestration.
• Microbiome-based therapies.
• Personalised drugs.
• Access to space.

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