want an invention? have a contest!

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
spinning bottlenecks.

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.

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1 thought on “want an invention? have a contest!”

  1. Hello I write for a bookzine called Estella’s Revenge (http://www.estellasrevenge.com) and I was hoping you might be able to help me pull together a feature for our ‘Travel’ issue. I’m popping around various international reading challenges and asking the organisers to tell me what are the best books they have encountered so far in their challenge experience. I would love it if you could let me know what some of your favourite challenge reads have been for the ‘African Reading’ challenge have been and perhaps provide a short sentence about why you have enjoyed them so much.

    The goal of this investigation is to get 80 books from around the world into this feature and so go ‘Around the World in 80 books’ (kind of dorky I know but also kind of fun).

    If you’d like to participate please send me your choices at bakerjodie at googlemail dot com by 24th April. If you’d like it would be wonderful if you could ask those taking part in the challenge to help out as well.

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