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Innovation Inducement Prizes: At the National Science Foundation
It will be feasible to define a plausible contest objective that is a suitable surrogate for the test of innovative success that is usually applied in the marketplace.
The contest will encourage a wide range of types of contestants, including those not ordinarily active in the research grant and contract world, to participate.
The goal is unlikely to be achieved, at least not in a reasonable time, using traditional grant and contract modes of encouragement alone.
Criteria Related to Broad Outreach and Engagement
It is widely agreed that inducement prizes are especially useful in seeking to broaden the range and scope of entities that compete for federal support of innovation. This suggests additional criteria for selection of candidate topics around which to structure prize offerings:
The goal should be reasonably meaningful to the general public and understandable by a wide range of potential contestants.
The methods and tools required to compete effectively should be available to a reasonably large number and wide range of potential contestants.
The process of competing for the prize should encourage formation of new social networks among individuals, firms, government laboratories, financial institutions, and others, who can contribute to future innovative activities.
Criteria Related to Political and Social Constraints
A variety of political and societal constraints should be considered in selecting prize topics, including:
Achieving contest objectives should not require use of classified information or technologies nor should it result in inadvertent creation of same.
Pursuing the prize should not pose unreasonably large risks to contestants, NSF, or the larger society.
Criteria Related to NSF’s Involvement
The prize goals and associated objectives should draw on the technological and scientific strengths of the NSF, its staff, and its advisory apparatus.