How long will it take to solve the #longitudeprize challenge?

03 Jul 2014

Written by Longitude Prize Team

Challenge Prizes, like Longitude, are a long-established method for encouraging rapid innovation, but sometimes even the best ideas need time to grow.

The Longitude Prize 2014 aims to solve the antibiotics challenge within five years, but how long has it taken for previous prizes to declare a winner?

John Harrison, inventor of the marine chronometer which solved the original Longitude challenge, was awarded funds for his research by the Board of Longitude throughout his career, but it took the vast majority of his working life (and royal intervention from King George III) before he was finally given the reward – long after he’d fulfilled the original conditions of the prize.

Very few prizes have taken as long to declare a winner – if suitable research is already happening, a solution can often be found very quickly. For example, Hippolyte Mège-Mouriés used his prior research into fats to create an early form of margarine within a few months of Napoleon III’s government offering a prize for finding a cheaper alternative to butter.

In recent years, the focus of challenge prizes has largely turned towards commercial space travel and exploration, incentivising teams of scientists to create technologies that expand our understanding and access to our galactic back garden – the Google Lunar X Prize, now in its seventh year, targets lunar exploration under the mantra ‘We’re going back to the moon. For good’.

However, challenge prizes have rarely involved the general public, until now…By choosing the challenge of antibiotic resistance for Longitude Prize 2014, the public are no longer spectators to scientific innovation. You’ve chosen your Longitude Prize challenge – now we want everyone to try and solve it!

Do you have an idea for the antibiotics challenge? Register your interest.

To find out more about past challenge prizes, explore our handy guide.