Technological Innovation and Prize Incentives
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Technological Innovation and Prize Incentives

The Google Lunar X Prize and Other Aerospace Competitions

Luciano Kay

In this in-depth study, Luciano Kay focuses on three recent cases of prize competitions in the aerospace industry: the Google Lunar X Prize, the Ansari X Prize and the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge. Using a combination of real-time and historical analysis based on personal interviews, workplace visits and questionnaire and document data analysis, the author examines the particular dynamics of the prize phenomenon and offers a comprehensive discussion of the potential of prizes to induce innovation. This fascinating volume also sets out a systematic method to studying prize incentives, offering a concrete innovation model and case study design approach that will prove highly useful to further research efforts in the field.
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Chapter 6: A closer look: the Google Lunar X Prize

Luciano Kay


On 13 September 2007 the XPF launched the GLXP with the sponsorship of Google Inc. The competition offers up to $30 million in prizes to the first entrant that lands a robot on the surface of the Moon, among other secondary technological targets, by 31 December 2015. The XPF designed this prize to ‘accelerate technology developments supporting the commercial creation of multiple systems capable of reaching the lunar surface and performing operations over an extended period of time.’ Other secondary goals include educating about the benefits of space and Moon exploration; raising interest in science, technology, math and engineering; supporting a new generation of engineers and entrepreneurs; and opening the space frontier to new ideas and participants by lowering costs. This competition is also expected to have a broader sociological impact since half of today’s world population was not alive at the moment the last NASA Apollo mission visited the Moon. We have to consider that the GLXP, as well as other competitions launched by the XPF, is also designed to have multiple back-end business markets that can be supported by the technologies developed in pursuit of the prize. In this regard the XPF’s criteria for prize design include that entrants should ideally be able to continue working on the commercial development of the prize technologies after the end of the competition and also differentiate their strategies through different business models. The advancements made by the GLXP entrants for example may eventually allow NASA and other space agencies to save money and expand the capabilities of future robotic and human missions to the Moon (Pomerantz, 2010a).

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