Prizes Now!

I have written a primer on Grand Innovation Prizes to Address Pandemics (pdf). An advantage of prizes is that the authority to issue them already exists:

Under the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010, US agencies have the authority and significant funds (up to $50 million, which may be pooled) to create prizes. Section 24 permits any agency head to “carry out a program to award prizes competitively to stimulate innovation that has the potential to advance the mission of the respective agency.” The European Commission has also used prizes to combat antimicrobial resistance and to pursue other goals. Thus, there is significant authority and knowledge in place to implement prizes quickly. A billion-dollar prize or series of prizes is also well within the capabilities of a number of individuals and private organizations throughout the world.

I suggest some best practices and write about implementation issues. This point is somewhat under recognized:

A prize need not be lump sum but could be tied to usage. For example, a $1 billion prize for a vaccine plus a $5 payment for every person vaccinated would tie innovation incentives even more closely to social incentives. The Advance Market Commitment for vaccines is a successful example. A prize tied to usage combines the best aspects of a prize and a patent. The prize helps to align incentives with public good production; the usage (patent-like) aspect helps to align incentives with market demand. A related advantage of tying the prize to usage is that less needs to be done up front in specifying the characteristics of the solution. For example, in the Advance Market Commitment, the vaccine had to satisfy certain properties, such as being shelf stable and administrable in developing countries. These details can be key in deciding what satisfies the prize conditions but are less necessary to the extent that the prize is tied to usage.

Here are the Emergent Venture Prizes to Combat COVID-19.

Read the whole thing (pdf).


Has anyone done a cost benefit calculation of all these measures? Tyler says that we might need to be hunkered down for months and sees 20% unemployment as a possibility. I support these mass closures for now, but as we get a handle on this crisis, we should really be considering how many excess deaths (i.e. some of those old people would have died anyway) this pandemic will cause and how many life years will be saved under different scenarios (e.g. how much is the mortality rate pulled down by "flattening the curve"). That needs to be weighed with the immediate (as well as long term) economic and social damage. Maybe widespread testing and tracing can help mitigate these effects and get the labor market rolling. We need to recognize that this disease is with us, and it will probably make its way through most of the population before a vaccine is developed.

I was going to post on this website my innovations of stopping the spread of corona virus,
But, with this announcement of a monetary Prize

I will keep it to my self until the program and rules are announced.

To give you a peak:
One chapter is on the law of Unintended Consequences During a Pandemic


The piece de resistance
A Chapter on

1001 Uses For Toilet Paper After This Is Over

Oops That should be UNUSED toilet paper.

I was going to offer the chapter entitled how to stop a pandemic as a teaser post to this website, so my motives are not necessarily pure, and I still have come up with a title for the book. I am disclosing this marketing inducement on my part to endear others here to me for being motivated by money notwithstanding a public health crisis.

What's interesting is semantics:

If you call it a Prize,
You excite economists.

If you call it a Grant Application and Grant
You excite Non-Profits.

I suggest that anyone who is writing a grant application submit on how to stop a pandemic write one proposal as a request for a Prize, and the other as a standard grant application.

Do prizes give partial credit to those who don't finish first? It would be an absolute waste of resources for all the runner ups to walk away empty handed. This leads to fewer participants.

Read the whole thing.

A standard .html version of this document would also be useful, because PDFs don't work well on phones and don't do well on Twitter and in similar venues.

Thanks. Fixed. Made the main link html and the sub link pdf. Here is html.

I really don't know why this blogs insists on Prizes. Let the scientists do their job.

Maybe prizes allow the one that gives the prize to get a free ride on the fame of the one who gets the prize?

Give that man a prize

The prize awarding stage is over.

However, everyone is going to be getting a participation trophy, without needing to apply to anyone.

This is worthy of a prize IMO...

How to use available stuff to multiply ventilators by a factor of 4.

A picture says a thousand words. So catchy, poignant graphics--especially those encourage social cohesion as the unevenly spread costs of fighting this grow--may be a good addition to the things to keep an eye out for. Call it emergent, private, beneficial propaganda. If the private sector doesn't produce this sort of thing on its own, the government will eventually produce a kind that may not be as socially healthful.

There's no shortage of talent working from home now, likely with windows of time in which to produce it.

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