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Technology & Innovation

Cash Prizes for Innovation

A new law overhauls the way the federal government supports private-sector R&D, and one of the main ways the government hopes to support R&D is with prizes. Lots of prizes.

So-called “inducement prizes” (as opposed to “recognition prizes,” like the Nobel or the MacArthur or the Pulitzer) make up a major part of the Obama administration’s grand Strategy for American Innovation. Last year, outlining its vision for a more competitive America, the White House said the government “should take advantage of the expertise and insight of people both inside and outside” Washington by using “high-risk, high-reward policy tools such as prizes and challenges to solve tough problems.” There’s good reason for the government to get in on it: Prizes work, and they have a surprisingly long pedigree.


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