The Longitude Prize

I received a really interesting email from Amazon.co.uk today. It appears that they are one of the prime sponsors of the 2014 Longitude Prize.

Below I am inserting the main body of their text. I think the idea behind it is really good and hope that this prize will encourage innovative solutions, or steps along the road, to the problems highlighted.

Well done to all involved with this.

The Longitude Prize

It is 300 years since the Longitude Act of 1714, which offered a prize of £20,000 to anyone who could devise a method to accurately determine a ship’s position at sea. Among those on the committee who judged the merit of entries was the then serving Astronomer Royal. History is repeating itself.

In 2014, Britain is reconvening the historic Longitude Committee to oversee Longitude Prize 2014, with a prize fund of £10 million. The Prize is being developed and run by Nesta, with the Technology Strategy Board as launch funding partner, and Astronomer Royal, Lord Martin Rees, as Chair of the revived committee.

“There’s now not just an obvious ‘number one’ challenge: there are many. A broad range of societal problems demand fresh thinking; we need to galvanise a new generation of innovators to address them. And it’s important to engage the public: we live in a world where science can do more and more to improve our lives,” says Lord Rees.

“So, the challenge to be addressed by the revived Longitude Prize 2014 will be decided not by government officials, as in 1714, but by the public. And you should have your say,” continued Lord Rees. “Through a rigorous process, engaging dozens of experts, as well as focus groups, we’ve identified six areas where innovations could improve people’s lives. And we’re asking the UK public to vote for which of the six areas should have top priority, and be the focus of the Longitude Prize 2014. Once chosen we hope that the public will also consider whether they can be a part of finding the solution.”

Below are the six challenges to choose from:

Antibiotics

Antibiotics have changed the face of healthcare for the better; they on average add 20 years to our lives. 80 years on from the discovery of penicillin, we are still unable to distinguish bacterial from viral infections, or the type of bacteria in the clinic, which has caused the overuse of antibiotics and the evolution of multidrug-resistant strains of bacteria. We need a cheap, rapid and accurate point of care test kit that allows doctors to accurately prescribe antibiotics at the right time.

Flight

The rapid growth of carbon emissions caused by air travel needs to be addressed to help tackle climate change. The potential of zero-carbon flight has been demonstrated but it has had little impact on the carbon footprint of the aviation industry, which still relies exclusively on fossil fuels. We need to bring novel technologies into the mainstream to stimulate a significant change.

Paralysis

Paralysis can emerge from a number of different injuries, conditions and disorders and the effects can be devastating. Every day can be a challenge when mobility, bowel control, sexual function and respiration are lost or impaired. We need to find a way to vastly increase the freedom of movement for people with paralysis and address some of the secondary symptoms to make life easier.

Dementia

An ageing population means more people are developing dementia and unfortunately there is currently no existing cure. This means there is a need to find ways to support a person’s dignity, physical and emotional wellbeing and extend their ability to live independently.

Water

Water is a finite resource and we must seek to find ways of producing more fresh water. Some 98 per cent of the Earth’s water is too salty for drinking or agriculture and as water requirements grow and as our reserves shrink, many are turning to desalination. We require a scalable solution that demonstrates low carbon, sustainable production of water for drinking or agriculture from seawater helping bring new technology to fruition.

Food

The world’s population is growing, getting richer and moving to cities. Current estimates suggest that by 2050 there will be about nine billion people on the planet; moreover our tastes will have turned to more resource-hungry foods such as meat and milk. In the face of limited resources and climate change, we must learn how to feed the world better, but more sustainably…

“I hope that the Longitude Prize 2014 will stimulate wide public interest and action, as well as encourage inventors and innovators over the next five years,” concludes Lord Rees. “Please find out more and vote for the challenge you would like to become the subject of Longitude Prize 2014, at the Longitude Prize website“.

Visit www.longitudeprize.org.

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