5 multi-million dollar prizes for inventors
From moon-roving robots to synthetic meat, some innovation contests are offering serious monetary incentives for creative thinkers
Your breakthrough invention could make you rich.
Your breakthrough invention could make you rich.

In an attempt to discover and deploy new technologies more quickly, a growing number of organizations are offering hefty cash prizes to inventors with breakthrough ideas. The trend has sparked a budding new industry, with everyone from individuals to government agencies gunning for the bounties. Here are five $1 million-plus innovation prizes currently up for grabs:

$1 million for growing chicken in a test tube
In an attempt to put a halt to factory farming, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals will award $1 million to the inventor of a commercially viable form in vitro chicken meat. To evaluate the entrants, 10 judges will eat a sample prepared in classic fried chicken style.

$1.4 million for a better way to sop up oil slicks
In the wake of the BP disaster, the philanthropic Schmidt Family Foundation has offered $1.4 million to anyone who invents a substantially better method for recovering oil from the surface of the ocean. Tests of the submitted technologies will begin in April 2011.

$10 million for developing a long-range car battery
A bipartisan bill introduced in Congress earlier this year proposes a $10 million for anyone who invents an automotive battery with a 500-mile range. Facing opposition from the Big Three automakers, the measure is currently languishing in committee in the Senate. 

$20 million for putting a robot on the Moon
Google and the X Prize Foundation have offered a grand prize of $20 million to any team that can successfully land a robot on the moon, "travel 500 meters over the lunar surface, and send images and data back to the Earth." The deadline for sign-up is December 31, 2010 and the deadline for completing the task is December 31, 2012.

$25 million for a technology capable of cooling the climate
In 2007, Sir Richard Branson and Al Gore launched the Virgin Earth Challenge, which promises $25 million to the first team to invent a commercially-viable way to remove significant amounts of carbon dioxide from Earth's atmosphere. The winning system must be capable of removing at least a billion metric tons of CO2 per year, for 10 consecutive years.



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