Pomerantz: X Prize Spurring Considerable Level of Parallel Tech Innovation

Caution: Innovation in Progress
William Pomerantz
The Launch Pad

One of the biggest advantages of incentive prizes like those we run here at the X PRIZE Foundation is that they allow an enormous amount of parallel innovation. In most traditional forms of research and development, the innovating body–the lab, the scientist, the company, the agency, the manager, whatever–has to perform some trade studies and down-select to a small number of research avenues they determine to be the most likely avenues to yield the desired results. That’s by no means a mistake–that’s sound management and efficient allocation of resources. But often, those decisions end up ruling out potential avenues that may in fact have the highest yield–because they also carry the highest risk of failure.

By contrast, when an incentive prize is offered, an entire ‘innovation ecosystem’ is set up, wherein a much larger group of those research avenues will be pursued by one or multiple competing teams. In this fashion, a lot of theory can be tested in practice, and the entire industry can learn lessons not only from the eventual winners of the prize, but from all of the competing teams.