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Innovation Inducement Prizes: At the National Science Foundation
require the efforts of large teams with contributions from many disciplines and fields of expertise. The prizes in contests of this type could range from $3 million to perhaps $30 million each. Designing a contest at this level would probably require one to three years of preliminary planning, consultation, and analysis. NSF might offer one new contest of this magnitude every few years, and each contest would be planned to continue for 5 to as many as 10 years. Thus, this part of the program would entail a budget for prize purses of $5 million to $50 million annually at steady state, exclusive of administrative and supporting costs, depending on the number of contests offered and the prize for each.
With either scale of prize contest the objectives should be stated in objective, measurable terms, and the committee generally prefers the first-past-the-post format. Nevertheless, depending on the nature of the objective and expected technological advance, either small or large contests could incorporate subsidiary best-in-class prizes for accomplishment of an intermediate objective.
The small- and large-scale prize contests suggested here represent what the committee believes are reasonable bounds on the scope of prizes that it would make sense for NSF to offer. They were selected for purposes of exposition of the design choices and their implications. We can envision that other intermediate types of prize contests will evolve as NSF gains experience with an innovation inducement prize program. A few potential topics of both small- and large-scale prize topics are described in Chapter 3.
We turn next to a discussion of a number of prize program design issues, including program administration and funding; the roles of NSF, other agencies, and the external communities; selection of prize topics and contest objectives; contest rules; and program evaluation.
NSF’s Role in Program Administration and Funding
NSF should take primary responsibility for developing and implementing the innovation inducement prize program. However, there are a variety of opportunities to make full use of the interests and capabilities of other federal agencies and a number of private sector entities in the profit and nonprofit worlds. Here we address the role of the NSF and how other institutions could be engaged in the NSF prize process.
Because NSF will be accountable to Congress for the conduct of the prize program and its results, the committee is of the view that NSF must execute certain tasks itself. For each contest NSF should decide on the topic or focus, set the rules, and be responsible for deciding the winners. NSF will also determine whether and how other entities contribute to the program’s design and administration. NSF will seek annual appropria-