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Bringing the Longitude Prize into the 21st Century

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Bringing the Longitude Prize into the 21st Century

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The Longitude Prize was arguably the first application of crowdsourced innovation.  In 1714 a competition was launched by the British government to find an accurate means of pinpointing a ship’s location at sea.  The winning idea, by John Harrison, would revolutionise sea based navigation, and would overwhelmingly vindicate the approach taken to open up innovation in such a way.

Suffice to say, such an approach is now much more commonplace, with the X-Prize, its modern heir, helping deliver innovations in a wide array of fields.  As of this month however, the Longitude Prize is officially back.

The modern incarnation will hope to empower innovation in one of six areas:

  1. Restoring movement to the paralysed
  2. Flying in an eco-friendly way
  3. Overcoming resistance to antibiotics
  4. Access to clean and safe water for all
  5. Access to healthy and nutritious food for all
  6. Helping those with dementia live independently for longer

These initial ideas were chosen by a team of over 100 scientists and academics from across the land who reviewed a wide range of ideas and topics, in order to devise this shortlist.

Which of these challenges will be opened up to the public will be decided by a public vote, which will take place from today until the 25th June.  The winning challenge will then be opened, and people invited to try and win the £10 million prize fund.  It is expected that the competition will become open for entries in September.

Geoff Mulgan, chief executive of the charity Nesta, which is looking after the prize, said: “If you want to solve a scientific problem, one method is to go to top universities and top scientists and ask them to solve it.

“But over the years, and this was something pioneered by the Longitude Prize in the 18th Century, it’s often better to open it up to anyone to come up with a solution.”

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