In my patent law course last week, we had discussion of the role of a patent system as compared with other potential governmental pro-innovation initiatives such as grants or prizes. Our current patent system does not provide any strong mechanisms for channeling innovation toward particular identified issues. Rather, investors and inventors choose their own paths according to their own subjective perception of the potential market upside. When an important challenge is publicly identified, we may want to add an additional layer of incentive to funnel research in a particular direction. In that vein, the Obama Administration's Chief Technology Office Aneesh Chopra and Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra unveiled CHALLENGE.GOV at yesterday's GOV 2.0 conference. CHALLENGE.GOV identifies 35 challenges and offers prizes for folks who provide novel solutions.
Identified challenges include:
- Create nutritious food that kids like — $12,000 prize.
- Reducing waste at college football games — school prestige award.
- Best original research paper as judged by the Defense Technical Information Center.
- Provide a whitepaper on how to improve reverse osmosis membranes — up to $100,000.
- Digital Forensics Challenge
- Federal Virtual Worlds Challenge (Create the best virtual world for the US Army) — $25,000 in prizes.
- Advance the field of wireless power transmission — $1.1M for a team that can wirelessly drive a mechanical climber to 1 kilometer height at a speed of at least 5 meters/sec.
- Strong Tether Challenge — create a material with 50% more tensile strength than anything on the market for $2 million.