| HBS Working Paper Series
Prizes and the Publication of Ideas
We examine whether prizes encourage innovation and, if so, how. We compare changes in U.S. patents per year for technology areas where U.S. inventors won prizes for exceptional innovations at the World's Fair in London in 1851 with technology areas where U.S. inventors exhibited but did not win a prize. We also compare changes in technology areas for inventions that were advertised in 1851 as lead articles in the Scientific American, a major science journal of the time. We find comparable increases in invention after 1851 through prizes and publication relative to other U.S. technologies. Since the signaling component of a World's Fair prize was replicated through publication of an invention in the Scientific American, our results suggest that publicity for promising research fields is an important mechanism by which prizes encourage innovation.