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.