The Rise of the Prize
Smart Gear Competition: World Wildlife Fund
A competition held five times since 2005, the prize rewards technology that “will allow fishers to fish smarter—better targeting their intended catch while safeguarding other ocean creatures.” Judges evaluate practical, cost-effective, and innovative designs that reduce the incidental catch and mortality of marine turtles, whales, dolphins, porpoises, and other non-target species in fishing gear.
Prize pool: $50,000 (up from $35,000 in previous years)
2011 winner: Kazuhiro Yamazaki, a Japanese fishing-boat captain, for a double-weighted branchline that avoids trapping seabirds in tuna longlines and reduces injuries to crew.
In Vitro Meat Contest: PETA
In 2011, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals invited scientists to produce and bring to market an “in vitro chicken-meat product that has a taste and texture indistinguishable from real chicken flesh.” PETA said it was promoting the new technology because “40 billion chickens, fish, pigs, and cows are killed every year for food in the United States in horrific ways” and because “in vitro meat would dramatically reduce the devastating effects the meat industry has on the environment.”
Prize: $1 million
Winner: None yet. Deadline is June 30, 2012
Earth Challenge: Virgin
In 2007, Sir Richard Branson and former U.S. vice president Al Gore, flanked by scientists and environmental activists, announced the Virgin Earth Challenge. The prize would be awarded to the person or company who would “develop a commercially viable design which results in the net removal of anthropogenic, atmospheric greenhouse gases so as to contribute materially to the stability of the Earth’s climate system.”
Prize: $25 million
Winner: None. The contest generated 2,600 written submissions. In 2011, judges identified a “short list” of 11 leading organizations working on air capture of CO2, biochar, bio-energy with carbon capture and storage, enhanced weathering on land, and land management.
L Prize: U.S. Department of Energy
Established under the 2007 Energy Independence & Security Act, the L Prize was a technology competition designed to spur lighting manufacturers to develop high-quality, high-efficiency, solid-state lighting products to replace the common light bulb. L Prize winners get consideration for government and utility-company purchasing programs.
Prize: $10 million
2011 winner: Philips Lighting North America
Illustration ©Dan Page