Prize funds: These alternatives to patents might be the way forward to cheaper healthcare…

In a recent article (ET, May 21), Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz advocates a shift from the patents regime to a prize-based system for new drugs. This is a sound suggestion. A government-supported prize fund would reward innovators for new knowledge, though they would have to give up monopoly over its use. 

Such a system will help lower drug prices, enhance availability and encourage research in medicines for social benefit. This is important for India. We need to devise innovative ways to deliver essential and life-saving medicines to the poor at low prices. 

Prize funds will delink the costs of R&D from drug prices to promote better access. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has been experimenting with such a model for some time, with good results. Applicants for funding have to waive claims to potential patents. 

Instead, they are required to share intellectual property, specimens and data with the international consortium. Rightly, the unconventional approach is meant to get around the complex intellectual property rights (IPR) regime that hinders vaccine and drug discovery. A more recent initiative to award prize payments for innovation is the Prize Fund for HIV/AIDS Act, a Congressional Bill introduced by Senator Bernie Sanders. It also seeks to promote open-source research to end secrecy in knowledge-sharing. 

A World Health Organization (WHO) report, called Research and Development to Meet Health Needs in Developing Countries, also backs prize funds, saying it is a financially viable model. India should take the cue and adopt such a model. The government must identify areas of research that need to be incentivised and create a pool of funds – coordinating contributions from charities, businesses and so on – to fund large prizes. 

More tax incentives for R&D and better coordination between laboratories, companies and universities will energise research. However, as Stiglitz rightly says, globally, innovation systems need much bigger changes. It is heartening to note that the WHO wants to fix the broken IPR regime that hinders the development and availability of cheap drugs. Hopefully, efforts such as these will revolutionise research and healthcare.


Embrace The Hate To Innovate (FORBES)

Imagine you’re speed dating. You move from table to table looking for someone who will latch on to your special kind of mojo. (Perhaps this is you: “I like walks on the beach; listening to­ Duran Duran; wearing parachute pants and neon green, sleeveless (‘wife­­beaters’) T-shirts.”

When you finally find your match, you want to spend every moment with your new soul mate. Their opinion now matters most to you. After all, they tell you that they are your biggest fan. (Sigh) Life is good.

Most of us like to be liked, and that (according to Barry Calpino, Head of Innovation for Kraft) poses an often-overlooked opportunity for innovators.

Calpino argues that when we constantly look to our most loyal customers and fans for feedback and insights, we miss the opportunity to hear about the glaring gaps in our performance. While your number one fan tells you what you want to hear, haters will tell you what you need to hear.

In other words, maybe the parachute pants and neon green T-shirts aren’t really ideal.

It turns out that the people you passed up in our speed dating metaphor have the most to offer you in terms of game-changing feedback. Says Calpino: “If you occasionally go to the people who absolutely loathe your product or service and ask them for feedback, you’ll often find HUGE opportunities to improve your offering.”

His advice is simple: Embrace the haters.

Barry spoke at our recent Health Care Innovation Summit. He chose this topic because he believed health care has so much to learn from the haters.

Show of hands—who hates: going to hospitals; getting eight statements for every medical procedure; the fact that doctors make you wait…and wait; those drafty gowns that reveal your butt; the ridiculous disclaimers attached to every pill; the…? OK, you get the idea.

The point is that those who hate what you are providing are doing everything short of begging for a better alternative. This means that someone who can deliver a better solution will steal away your customers as soon as they do. If you ignore the haters, you are ignoring your biggest Achilles’ heel.

Embrace the hate to innovate.

Haters will point you to new products, services and business models that your loyal and expert customers would never consider. For example, true environmentalists probably don’t drive V-8 trucks that suck gas, but they certainly could help transportation companies think up a new model that promotes car-sharing like Zipcar.

Read more at site…

Private Moon Race Will Preserve NASA’s Historic Lunar Landing Sites

The 26 teams engaged in a private race to the moon won’t run roughshod over the lunar surface if and when they get there.

The Google Lunar X Prize is offering a total of $30 million to the first privately funded teams to land a robot on the moon and have it complete a variety of tasks. The race will abide by guidelines NASA has established to protect historic and scientifically important sites on the moon, NASA and X Prize officials announced today (May 24).

The Playa Vista, Calif.-based X Prize Foundation will take these guidelines into account as it judges the plans submitted by the 26 teams still in the competition, officials said.

The aim is to preserve the signs of humanity’s first steps on another celestial body, which were taken by a handful of NASA Apollo astronauts between 1969 and 1972, and safeguard ongoing and future lunar science efforts from a potential swarm of landers and rovers.

NASA developed the guidelines — which aren’t mandatory, enforceable requirements — after analyzing data from various moon studies and consulting with experts from academia and the spaceflight community, agency officials said.

The Google Lunar X Prize will award $20 million to the first privately funded team to successfully land a robot on the lunar surface, have it move at least 1,650 feet (500 meters) and beam high-definition imagery back to Earth.

The second team to complete these tasks will receive $5 million. An additional $4 million in bonus prizes is available for achieving other feats, such as operating at night, detecting water ice and traveling more than 3 miles (5 kilometers) on the lunar surface. Finally, $1 million will go to the team that shows the greatest effort to encourage diversity in space exploration, X Prize officials said.

The Google Lunar X Prize expires once all the money has been awarded, or at the end of 2015.

NASA Hosting $1.5 Million Autonomous Rover Contest…

The competition will be held June 16, where NASA will award prize money based on how well the robots complete phase two

NASA is holding a competition for the creation of autonomous rovers in Massachusetts next month, which will ideally be used for planetary missions in the future.

The competition, called the Sample Return Robot Challenge, will allow private and public teams to compete in a contest for the best autonomous robot for future space missions. NASA is spending $1.5 million total on the contest, which will be held at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts.

NASA is looking for a team that can create an unmanned, smaller robot that is approximately 1.5 cubic meters and 175 pounds. The winning robot must be able to explore many types of environments, search for specific items and collect them. However, the robot cannot use GPS or an internet connection because these kinds of systems are restricted to Earth. It also cannot use air-cooling or ultrasonic rangefinders because of the lack of air in other planetary environments.

Phase one of the challenge is to have each of the competing robots collect a sample within a quarter of an hour. When this task is successfully completed, robots can move on to phase two, where they are expected to collect 10 separate samples in just two hours and return them to a certain area.

There are currently 11 final teams that will compete. Some of the contenders include the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Waterloo, SpacePRIDE, and True Vision. All teams are U.S. and Canada-based.

NASA is ultimately looking for an autonomous rover that can be sent on planetary missions in the future to collect certain items in varied terrains.

Last May, NASA bid farewell to its Mars rover named Spirit, which spent six years exploring Mars before falling silent for an entire year and finally being put to rest. Later, in November 2011, NASA launched a new Mars rover called Curiosity to the Red Planet in an effort to continue exploring the Martian surface.

NASA rover Curiosity is a $2.5 billion nuclear-powered machine meant for the exploration of Mars in hopes of finding evidence of microscopic life. It is the size of a Mini Cooper, and about four times as heavy as the Spirit and Opportunity Mars rovers. Curiosity has a large robot arm, a weather station, a laser that can vaporize rocks at seven meters, a percussive drill, and 4.8kg of plutonium-238.

The competition will be held June 16, where NASA will award prize money based on how well the robots complete phase two.

You Call That Innovation?

Got innovation? Just about every company says it does.

Companies throw the term “innovation” around but that doesn’t mean they are actually changing anything monumental. Leslie Kwoh reports on digits. Photo: Getty Images.

Businesses throw around the term to show they’re on the cutting edge of everything from technology and medicine to snacks and cosmetics. Companies are touting chief innovation officers, innovation teams, innovation strategies and even innovation days.

But that doesn’t mean the companies are actually doing any innovating. Instead they are using the word to convey monumental change when the progress they’re describing is quite ordinary.

Like the once ubiquitous buzzwords “synergy” and “optimization,” innovation is in danger of becoming a cliché—if it isn’t one already.

“Most companies say they’re innovative in the hope they can somehow con investors into thinking there is growth when there isn’t,” says Clayton Christensen, a professor at Harvard Business School and the author of the 1997 book, “The Innovator’s Dilemma.”

More than 250 books with “innovation” in the title have been published in the last three months, most of them dealing with business, according to a search AMZN -1.42% .

A search of annual and quarterly reports filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission shows companies mentioned some form of the word “innovation” 33,528 times last year, which was a 64% increase from five years before that.

The definition of the term varies widely depending on whom you ask. To Bill Hickey, chief executive of Bubble Wrap’s maker, Sealed Air Corp., it means inventing a product that has never existed, such as packing material that inflates on delivery. To Ocean Spray Cranberries Inc. CEO Randy Papadellis, it is turning an overlooked commodity, such as leftover cranberry skins, into a consumer snack like Craisins.

To Pfizer Inc.’s PFE -0.25% research and development head, Mikael Dolsten, it is extending a product’s scope and application, such as expanding the use of a vaccine for infants that is also effective in older adults.

Scott Berkun, the author of the 2007 book “The Myths of Innovation,” which warns about the dilution of the word, says that what most people call an innovation is usually just a “very good product.”

He prefers to reserve the word for civilization-changing inventions like electricity, the printing press and the telephone—and, more recently, perhaps the iPhone.

Mr. Berkun, now an innovation consultant, advises clients to ban the word at their companies.

“It is a chameleon-like word to hide the lack of substance,” he says.

Mr. Berkun tracks innovation’s popularity as a buzzword back to the 1990s, amid the dot-com bubble and the release of James M. Utterback’s “Mastering the Dynamics of Innovation” and Mr. Christensen’s “Dilemma.”

The word appeals to large companies because it has connotations of being agile and “cool,” like start-ups and entrepreneurs, he says.

Technology concerns aren’t necessarily the worst offenders. Apple Inc. AAPL -0.92%and Google Inc. GOOG -1.15% mentioned innovation 22 times and 14 times, respectively, in their most recent annual reports. But they were matched by Procter & Gamble Co. PG -0.16% (22 times), Scotts Miracle-Gro Co. SMG -1.15% (21 times) andCampbell Soup Co. CPB +0.25% (18 times).

The innovation trend has given birth to an attendant consulting industry, and Fortune 100 companies pay innovation consultants $300,000 to $1 million for work on a single project, which can amount to $1 million to $10 million a year, estimates Booz & Co. innovation strategy consultant Alex Kandybin.

In addition, four in 10 executives say their company now has a chief innovation officer, according to a recent study of the phenomenon released last month by Capgemini Consulting.

The findings, based on an online survey of 260 global executives and 25 in-depth interviews, suggest that such titles may be mainly “for appearances.”

Jeff Semenchuk, who was named Hyatt Hotels Corp.’s H -0.33% first chief innovation officer in August, says there is “nothing fluffy” about his job.

Most of the executives conceded their companies still don’t have a clear innovation strategy to support the role.

The hotel chain recently interviewed hundreds of guests and concluded that “we’re all kind of stuck in the past,” he says of the industry.

He oversees experimental initiatives at eight newly designated “lab” hotels around the world. Among his projects: a new process that has an iPad-toting concierge meet guests at the airport and check them in.

Innovation is hardly a new term. The word, which derives from the Latin nouninnovatus, meaning renewal or change, appeared in print as early as the 15th century, according to Robert Leonard, chairman of Hofstra University’s linguistics program.

As companies have sped up product cycles, the word has come to signify not just doing something new but also doing it more quickly, he says.

Campbell Soup, for example, says it is trying to bring new products, from soup flavors to skillet sauces, to market more quickly than its competitors do. “Ideas can be copied much more quickly today,” says Vice President and General Manager Darren Serrao.

Mr. Christensen classifies innovations into three types: efficiency innovations, which produce the same product more cheaply, such as automating credit checks; sustaining innovations, which turn good products into better ones, such as the hybrid car; and disruptive innovations, which transform expensive, complex products into affordable, simple ones, such as the shift from mainframe to personal computers.

A company’s biggest potential for growth lies in disruptive innovation, he says, noting that the other types could just as well be called ordinary progress and normally don’t create more jobs or business.

But the disruptive innovations can take five to eight years to bear fruit, he says, so companies lose patience.

It is far easier, he adds, for companies to just say they’re innovating. “Everybody’s innovating, because any change is innovation.”

Some die-hard users of the word innovation admit that they’re tiring of it.

Sealed Air’s Mr. Hickey, who notes that his company has been using it in corporate filings since at least 1980, is considering dropping the word in company materials.

Next up? “Inventive.”

“Inventive is a mind set; innovation is a thing,” he says. “We’ll be heading the pack.”

NASA Offers Guidelines To Protect Historic Sites On The Moon

WASHINGTON — NASA and the X Prize Foundation of Playa Vista, Calif., announced Thursday the Google Lunar X Prize is recognizing guidelines established by NASA to protect lunar historic sites and preserve ongoing and future science on the moon. The foundation will take the guidelines into account as it judges mobility plans submitted by 26 teams vying to be the first privately-funded entity to visit the moon.

NASA recognizes that many spacefaring nations and commercial entities are on the verge of landing spacecraft on the moon. The agency engaged in a cooperative dialogue with the X Prize Foundation and the Google Lunar X Prize teams to develop the recommendations. NASA and the next generation of lunar explorers share a common interest in preserving humanity’s first steps on another celestial body and protecting ongoing science from the potentially damaging effects of nearby landers.

NASA assembled the guidelines using data from previous lunar studies and analysis of the unmanned lander Surveyor 3’s samples after Apollo 12 landed nearby in 1969. Experts from the historic, scientific and flight-planning communities also contributed to the technical recommendations. The guidelines do not represent mandatory U.S. or international requirements. NASA provided them to help lunar mission planners preserve and protect historic lunar artifacts and potential science opportunities for future missions.

The Google Lunar X Prize will award $30 million total in prizes. First place will go to a privately-funded team that builds a rover which lands successfully on the moon, explores it by moving at least one third of a mile and returns high-definition video and imagery to Earth.

Additional bonus prizes will be awarded for photographing a Lunar Heritage, Apollo or Surveyor spacecraft site. The contest ends whenever all prizes are claimed or at the end of 2015.

To view the full set of guidelines, visit:

For more information about the X Prize Foundation, visit:

For more information about the Google Lunar X Prize, visit:

For a lunar exploration timeline, visit:

How to Involve the Military in the Innovation Process (THE ATLANTIC)…

The first time you see a Stealth bomber come in for a landing, there is a moment when, as the aircraft lines up for the runway, it goes from being a giant presence on the horizon to being a faint, thin line in the sky.

It only lasts for a second, just long enough for you to doubt — to start to look left and right — to wonder if it’s real. Then it’s looming before you again. And that’s the moment you know:  

Ah. That’s Stealth.

But, really, where’s the commercial application? Do civilians need aircraft to be invisible?

The answer, of course, is no. But the aircraft’s graphite fiber-reinforced composite inspired the advanced composites used today in the up-and-coming designs of more fuel efficient, larger and quieter commercial aircraft like the Boeing 787 Dreamliner shown at the Innovation Summit.

Yet how quickly would the commercial sector have developed such innovations had it not been for military money? That question is part of a long-standing debate over the value of defense-related research.

During the Innovation Summit, more than one speaker bemoaned the up-and-downs of research funding in the United States and its impact on the decline in the nation’s status as a global leader in innovation.

Almost 60 percent of the money the federal government puts into research and development is related to the Department of Defense. That’s not expected to change much over the next few years because, as Cheryl Martin, deputy director of commercialization at the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, put it, cutbacks in defense can be measured in dollars “and in blood.”

Because of that, as some pundits are quick to note, politicians find protecting military spending to be expedient. And that means cuts in federal R&D spending must, by necessity, come from other arenas.

So what is the impact of defense spending on innovation? The quick answer to that often comes back: the internet, a project began in the early 1960s by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the precursor to ARPA-E.

There are plenty of other examples: World War I brought advances in the understanding of gases and explosives, World War II in jet aircraft, radar and atomic sciences (and from that the creation of global positioning systems), and the Cold War brought innovations in computing, mathematics and space technologies.

But others have long argued that the development of commercial applications of defense-related research have been hampered by the secrecy surrounding most military projects and the accompanying array of government procurement regulations.

While the first Stealth bomber became operational in the Air Force in 1993, because of secrecy concerns, it wasn’t until nine years later that Boeing could unveil it’s Bird of Prey technology demonstrator that helped define some of the project’s breakthroughs.

Still others have argued that the cumbersome military process led to inefficiencies in civilian research and development that contributed to the nation’s lag in innovation.

In January, the U.S. Commerce Department released a report on “The Competitiveness and Innovation Capacity of the United States,” that both touted the Defense Department’s role in R&D and also called on the private sector to step up its support of basic research.

Private sector operations naturally are drawn more to the latter stages of R&D, when the development of a particular product with profit potential is the easier sell to company stakeholders, the report said. But it also added that innovation often comes at the beginning of research.

The report suggests ways to foster more private sector investment in research, including extending tax credits for private R&D as incentive, improve the “methods by which basic research is transferred from the lab into commercial products,” and the development of regional innovation clusters.

The clusters are “geographic concentrations of interconnected businesses, suppliers, service providers, coordinating intermediaries, and associated institutions like universities or community colleges in a particular field,” that together form an “innovation eco-system” in the development of new ideas and technologies.

´╗┐The Defense Department has already jumped in, working with the Small Business Administration to develop clusters focusing on such advanced technologies as robotics, energy and cyber-security´╗┐.

Meanwhile, defense-related R&D will continue to be debated, in the congressional halls where funding is approved, and in the discussions of what really is the value of military research.

And, it can all be followed — if one is interested — on the internet.