Article | Research Policy | December 2012

Grand Innovation Prizes: A Theoretical, Normative, and Empirical Evaluation

by Alan MacCormack, Fiona Murray, Scott Stern and Georgina Campbell


This paper provides a systematic examination of the use of a Grand Innovation Prize (GIP) in action—the Progressive Automotive Insurance X PRIZE—a $10 million prize for a highly efficient vehicle. Following a mechanism design approach we define three key dimensions for GIP evaluation: objectives, design, and performance, where prize design includes ex ante specifications, ex ante incentives, qualification rules, and award governance. Within this framework we compare observations of GIPs from three domains—empirical reality, theory, and policy—to better understand their function as an incentive mechanism for encouraging new solutions to large-scale social challenges. Combining data from direct observation, personal interviews, and surveys, together with analysis of extant theory and policy documents on GIPs, our results highlight three points of divergence: first, over the complexity of defining prize specifications; secondly, over the nature and role of incentives, particularly patents; thirdly, the overlooked challenges associated with prize governance. Our approach identifies a clear roadmap for future theory and policy around GIPs.

Keywords: Design; Motivation and Incentives; Goals and Objectives; Performance; Auto Industry;


MacCormack, Alan, Fiona Murray, Scott Stern, and Georgina Campbell. "Grand Innovation Prizes: A Theoretical, Normative, and Empirical Evaluation." Research Policy 41, no. 10 (December 2012): 1779–1792.