The British Government will today unveil a global prize, aiming to entice the next Einstein, Fleming or Newton out their to solve the biggest problems of our time. It will appeal to all scientists and inventors around the globe. One million pounds will be offered as a prize for the winning invention or discovery, and aspirations are high. The government have “big” hopes that it will inspire innovators to create something to change the world.
By dangling that million-pound carrot, Downing Street hopes that it will illuminate, inspire and recapture a healthy competition within the public, a la Robert Hooke and Isaac Newton. The government hope that it is a wealthy enough sum to fund the creation of revolutionary technologies such as new forms of low-carbon travel or advances in medical science to create replacement limbs.
The Prime Minister will announce the prize fund at the G8 Innovation Conference ahead of next week’s meeting of leaders from the world’s richest countries.
A source from the Government has said:
“We want people to think big. What does the world need and how can we achieve that? We are looking for the next penicillin, aeroplane or worldwide web.
“Can we grow limbs or create universal low-carbon travel? Something that is going to really revolutionise what we do and how we live our lives – sending us sprinting ahead in the global race.”
In Britain, we’re absolutely sentimental, so it’s no surprise that this is inspired by something that happened two-hundred and ninety nine years ago! This new initiative is intended to mimic ‘the Longitude Prize’, a ‘cash for invention’ goal that was set by the British government in 1714. In return for a new system which was able to measure longitude on transoceanic voyages (they were already able to measure latitude by the sun) without relying on dead reckoning, the government was promising £20,000 to the person who mastered the challenge of calculating at sea to help maritime navigation. Their statement read: “The Discovery of the Longitude is of such Consequence to Great Britain for the safety of the Navy and Merchant Ships as well as for the improvement of Trade that for want thereof many Ships have been retarded in their voyages, and many lost…” [and there will be a Longitude] “for such person or persons as shall discover the Longitude.”
With History in mind, this latest endeavour has been dubbed ‘The new Longitude Committee’, and will be chaired by Royal Lord Lees, the astronomer. Also, the innovation organisation Nesta will support the committee’s work with a £500,000 pledge.
David Cameron, The Prime Minister, is readying the announcement of £50 million of funding for ideas to help the developing world, all coming from within the UK’s aid budget. At the G8 Innovation Conference in east London, Cameron said: “More than any time in history, our world is being shaped by innovation, new ideas, new technologies and new companies. This is the story of the global economy.
“Countries around the world have got to get this. Jobs and growth depend on it. We’ve all got to open up our economies to innovation, we’ve got to nurture new ideas, we’ve got to bend over backwards to attract the best and the brightest.
“A global race is under way and it is waiting for absolutely no one.”
He continued to detail the importance of presenting the prize to the biggest pool of people with the best of ideas, his suggestions included “Britain to New York” flights that are carbon free.
“We are going to produce a more than £1 million prize, we are going to establish a committee of scientists to look at the issue we should try to crack, but then we are going to open it up to the public,” he said.
“There are so many problems in our world that need that amazing solution, whether it is a cure for dementia, solving the problem of diabetes, having a flight from Britain to New York that’s carbon free. Let’s challenge the public and challenge the scientists for which is the great problem we want to crack.
“I’m thinking of something – Britain’s Got Talent, you know, you switch on the TV and you watch the dog jumping over the pole, or whatever it is. Let’s actually get the nation engaged on what the biggest problems are in science and in our lives that we need to crack, with a multi-million pound prize to then help us do that.”
Britain should be a “pro-science” state, according to Cameron too, who insisted the use of genetically modified crops would be important for Britain’s future food security: “We need to make sure we are a very pro-science country. I think there are one or two subjects there we need to take on. I think it’s time we had a really good look again at GM food and all of that. I think we need to be open to be open to arguments from science.”