Leveraging innovation to solve problems

By Jovan D. Rebolledo-Mendez, PhD

Most of us have the intrinsic spirit of succeeding and becoming better; whatever is the challenge one chooses. The incentive of winning a prize in a contest has always proved to bring the best of the innovative thinking to anyone who wants to accept the challenge.

Peter Diamandis, the creator of XPRIZE

There are many governments, and their instances that are currently using the model of inviting anyone to compete for a prize to create innovation or solve specific problems. But, among those contests, there is a private organization that has gained a lot of importance during last few years because its objective of challenging anyone to solve humanity’s grand challenges, from private travel to space to universal literacy.

XPRIZE (xprize.org), created by Peter Diamandis, is a non-profit organization, which has the objective to incentivize the creativity and innovation of anyone in the world to work on solutions that even huge organizations like NASA or UN can not succeed completely. Prizes go from $1m USD to $10m or $15m USD. Among the competitions XPRIZE has already created, the Ansari XPRIZE for Suborbital Spaceflight got the global attention when it succeed in leveraging private space travel for the first time.

The winners of the Progressive Insurance Automotive XPRIZE could build an efficient vehicle that could go for 100km on 2.35 liters of gas while producing emissions less than 200gr/mile.

XPRIZE has partnered with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to develop a prize for a better tuberculosis diagnostic tool. Other potential prize ideas include preserving biodiversity, mapping the oceans, developing clean aviation fuels, energy storage, sustainable housing and carbon sequestration.

Two ongoing competitions are very exciting; one that could make the exploration of the moon private, and the other for education. In the first one, a humble team from India has won a milestone, and the relevance of this achievement is not just technological, but the fact that people with no space or rocket technology experience could beat experienced engineers working for NASA.

Finally, a very exciting XPRIZE is about bringing a way to potentially make all children in the world literate in their own language (from Asia and Africa to South America).

The model that has been proven by XPRIZE is relevant because it leverages the innovation spirit and capabilities of anyone who really wants to make a change and/or contribute to humanity. We all benefit from those achievements and also get inspired by their persistence, ingenuity and dreams to reach what many people could think as impossible.

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DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and not those of Japan Update, Ryukyu Press or their employees.

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