Throughout human history, competition has been the primary driver of meaningful innovation. Unfortunately, this competition is too often limited to a few traditional competitors who all see things pretty much the same way. Recognizing this weakness, a set of public and private sponsors are establishing and running “formal competitions” aimed at addressing intractable technological challenges. These challenges range from low-cost space flight, to ultra-efficient vehicles, to making “personal genomics” an affordable technology. Competitors range from universities, to corporate giants, to entrepreneurial start-ups. Why is this approach so cost-effective? When does it make the most sense? What are the implications? We’ll address these questions and more.
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