Science Policy Research Report: The Use of Innovation Prizes in Government

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Prizes and grand challenges - competitions that offer a reward to the first person or team that achieves a certain feat or invents a new technology - can play an important role and, through innovation, help the nation tackle and solve complex problems to achieve important goals such as becoming more competitive, advancing the national health, and securing the national defense. Given the growing interest in these competitions and their notable effect, there is a need to systematically compile scientific knowledge on how to design, manage, and evaluate these funding mechanisms. This project analyzes existing empirical evidence, produces a research report with a synthesis of research findings on prizes, and provides actionable recommendations to help government agencies make a more efficient use of prizes and achieve their missions. Prizes represent unconventional instances of innovation and creativity and represent a way to incentivize innovation, educate and train students in S&T, and increase awareness of broader policy issues. This project helps better understand the value and potential of government prizes but its recommendations also have application to solve other pressing societal or economic problems that are not necessarily technology-related.

This project evaluates scientific evidence and other non-academic literature of the past 15 years, and then reviews and synthesizes existing knowledge to clarify what is and what is not known about prizes with regards to their use in science and technology policy. It seeks to answer questions such as how certain design parameters affect their outcome, the actual incentive effect induced per award dollar, and the kind of contributions prizes make to the sponsor's mission. Its synthesis taps into research's findings and focuses on four main themes: design, implementation, use of results and evaluation of prizes. It analyzes and compares the methodological quality of the reviewed publications and investigates the reasons for differences across studies.

Principal Investigator: 
Luciano Kay
University of California-Santa Barbara
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Start Date: 
May, 01 2017
Last Amendment Date: 
Apr, 26 2017
Expiration Date: 
Apr, 30 2018
Award Instrument: 
Standard Grant
Program Manager: 
Maryann Feldman
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Organization Street: 
Office of Research
Organization City: 
Santa Barbara
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