England, the 1700s:
In traditional methods, the spinning of cotton was far more labor intensive than weaving, as it generally required between four and eight spinners to keep one weaver supplied with yarn. In desperation, the British government began to sponsor competitions and award prizes to those offering solutions to the
James Hargreaves rose to the challenge and patented his spinning jenny in 1770.*
A modern application of this approach to innovation is Advance Market
Commitments for vaccines, announced in today’s news:
Vaccines Deal To Help Poor States
“Six donors are close to approving a groundbreaking $1.5 billion mechanism designed to boost the development and affordable supply of new vaccines to the developing world.
The governments of Italy, the UK, Canada, Russia and Norway, as well as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, will by June agree their support for final recommendations released today on a pilot Advance Market Commitment (AMC) to supply vaccines against pneumococcal disease, which kills 1.6 million people a year.
The AMC provides a guaranteed market for pneumococcal vaccines, underwritten by donors but with an agreement that recipient countries will assume an increasing share of the purchase cost over its lifetime until 2020. …
If judged successful, existing and new donors including Spain, Ireland and the US have already expressed interest in supporting up to two further proposed AMCs: one for malaria vaccines and one for tuberculosis. Initial estimates suggest malaria AMC would require $2.3 billion. …” [The Financial Times (UK)]
* from the painstaking The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy: An
Economist Examines the Markets, Power, and Politics of World Trade, p74-75.