Tue, Sep 4th 2007 3:46am
Since the first X-Prize competition, we've seen more and more interest in this model as a way to spur innovation. However, there are still a lot of questions about the competition model, in terms of efficacy and utility for private industry. While businesses are interested in the concept, the exact model remains unclear. Economist Alex Tarbarrok relates an interesting point about how the X-Prize was funded. Apparently, the group behind it didn't actually raise the prize money, but rather it bought an insurance contract that would pay off in the event that someone actually won. And who wrote the insurance contract? None other than the established experts in the field: Boeing and McDonnell-Douglas. It just so happened that these companies thought the prospect of a successful launch was basically nil, so they gave the organization a very generous price on this insurance contract. The fact that the prize was ultimately claimed is a good indication that even the established leaders in a field don't always have the best grasp of what advances are just around the corner. It also suggests a possible business model, whereby middlemen attempt to arbitrage the disparity between what the establishment deems possible and what individual inventors think they can accomplish.
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