The Prize Research Website
Research and resources on innovation prizes, awards and other unconventional incentives for innovation.

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This website describes and presents the findings of a research program on innovation inducement prizes along with related resources. This program started with the doctoral dissertation project "How do prizes induce innovation? Learning from the Google Lunar X-Prize." by Luciano Kay (Georgia Institute of Technology) which investigated inducement prizes and their effects on technological innovation with support from the U.S. National Science Foundation (more about sponsors).


The main project in this research program has been Luciano Kay's doctoral dissertation, which investigated technology prizes and contributed new insights about the means by which prizes induce innovation. This project investigated three cases of prize competitions in the aerospace industry and participating teams (see methodology section too):

  • a main case study: the ongoing $30 million Google Lunar X Prize (GLXP), which requires participants to land a robot on the surface of the Moon, among other secondary goals, by December 2015; and,
  • two pilot case studies:
    • the Ansari X Prize, which offered a $10 million reward for the first non-government organization to launch a reusable manned spacecraft into space twice within two weeks; and,
    • the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge, part of NASA's Centennial Challenges program, aimed at building and flying a rocket-powered vehicle that simulates the flight of a vehicle on the Moon, with prizes of up to $2 million.

This project investigated three main aspects of those prizes: (1) how prize entrants respond to prize incentives, (2) how they organize R&D activities, and (3) how technology advancement takes place in the context of prize competitions. The investigation provided insights related with the organization of R&D activities and the overall strategies of teams (without disclosing confidential or sensitive data). Neither this research project nor any of its researchers are affiliated with any prize team or sponsor.

This research program has also produced the report "Managing Innovation Prizes in Government" with support from The IBM Center for the Business of Government. This report offers practical insights and recommendations for the design, implementation, and evaluation of innovation prizes sponsored or organized by government agencies for technology development or achievement of other mission-related goals. The report draws primarily on findings from the aforementioned project and from further investigation of the Grand and Urban Challenges of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). The DARPA Challenges are three competitions organized in 2004, 2005, and 2007 to develop autonomous ground robotic vehicles. The report also includes insights from the broader prize literature and discusses how different aspects of prize design may lead to more effective and efficient prizebased public programs.


This research on prizes combines a two-stage, iterative research design and multiple data sources to be able to investigate a topic that has been barely addressed by the academic literature.

The first stage tests a model of innovation inducement prizes based on patterns that link prize incentives with entrant characteristics, R&D organization, and technological outcomes. This model has been tested and revised by studying the two first aerospace prizes as pilot cases: the Ansari X-Prize and the Lunar Lander Challenge of NASA. This first stage draws primarily on secondary data and interviews with experts.

The second stage applies the revised model to the ongoing Google Lunar X-Prize and its prize entrants. This case study draws on data from questionnaires applied to prize teams, interviews with team members and prize experts, and site visits to teams' workplaces. Beyond the scientific and technical relevance of the challenge posed by the GLXP, this ongoing prize had exceptional significance for this research due to its real-time data access and possibility to explore real-time perceptions of prize entrants in a competitive context characterized by technological uncertainty. This research took advantage of this opportunity for data gathering using an approach that combined questionnaires, interviews, and direct observation.

Relevance of this research

Policy-makers and scholars are increasingly looking at innovation inducement prizes as a means to pursue scientific, technological, and broader societal goals. In the U.S., NASA, the Department of Defense, and other agencies have already used prizes to advance technologies related to their missions. Moreover, in the current economic crisis, prizes have received additional attention since they put forward potential advantages to stimulate the economy through innovation. Yet, relatively little academic research has addressed this topic to understand the potential of prizes to achieve these goals.

This research program contributes to enhancing our understanding of the relationship between prize incentives, R&D organization, and technology advancement to inform the design of more efficient policies and public and private prize sponsorships aimed at increasing competitiveness, creating new businesses and jobs, or advancing critical technologies.

About the researcher

Luciano Kay is a Postdoctoral Scholar with the Center for Nanotechnology in Society at University of California Santa Barbara (CNS-UCSB) and a Research Associate with The Georgia Tech Program in Science, Technology and Innovation Policy (STIP), Georgia Institute of Technology. The main project in this research program is Luciano Kay's doctoral dissertation project. The Chair of the Committee that supervised such dissertation is Professor Philip Shapira (Georgia Institute of Technology and Manchester University, UK). You may wish to visit Luciano Kay's personal website for more information on the researcher.


This research on innovation prizes has been supported in part by the US National Science Foundation under Grant Number SBE-0965103. Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this website are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

Additional support for Luciano Kay's research on innovation prizes has been provided by The IBM Center for the Business of Government to produce the report Managing Innovation Prizes in Government.

More information

For more information please contact Luciano Kay by e-mail using luciano at

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Featured Publications

New book: Technological Innovation and Prize Incentives. The Google Lunar X Prize and Other Aerospace Competitions.


The book investigates the effect of prizes on technological innovation based on empirical, case study evidence from aerospace competitions: the Google Lunar X Prize for robotic Moon exploration; the Ansari X Prize for the first private reusable manned spacecraft; and the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge for flights of reusable rocket-powered vehicles. The book develops theoretical and practical implications for the design, implementation and evaluation of prize competitions and offer insights for entrepreneurs, professionals and other individuals or organizations interested in prize participation.

Link to book information and order: Publisher's website (10% discount): USA, Other countries | Other stores: | Google E-books

More publications and other outputs, including poster recently presented at the U.S. National Science Foundation SciSIP PI Conference September 20-21, 2012, Washington, DC, with some findings of this research on innovation prizes.

Latest update: 2013-01-14 10:11 AM by Luciano