At Nesta’s Challenge Prize Centre, we believe we can improve society by using ‘challenges’ to drive innovation. We’re a not-for-profit, so we don’t have a vested interest, we simply want to stimulate and experience progress. We know that innovation competitions excite and engage the broadest community of problem solvers, creating solutions that are better quality, sustainable and impactful, pushing frontiers and advancing society. So we are gathering a community of problem solvers at the Challenges of Our Era Summit on our mission to encourage and speed up problem-solving activity on some of the most difficult challenges we face, especially ones that are being overlooked.
We want to raise the profile of how challenge prizes can make change happen and when they are (and are not) a great tool to use. People don’t often wake up in the morning and think ‘I need a challenge prize to solve my problem’ but increasingly, due to the rapid rise of technology and a globally connected world, challenge prizes have become a useful tool to motivate problem solvers to focus on solutions. It’s not all about the prize money at the end, it’s about motivating people to get involved, incentivising progress and bringing people who have the capability to create solutions with us, helping them fulfil their potential and make exciting things happen.
We know that being able to feed a global population of over 10 billion people is not necessarily a new challenge, but there’s still a lot to be done and there are areas that need more focus and energy – so we’ll be defining and exploring those at the summit. We know that there is a real desire to improve the access to and quality of surgery around the world – technology can play a role, as can other innovations. We’re sure that a challenge prize in this area will help drive momentum and kick start tangible progress. We also know that in the digital world we live in, the role of data is constantly evolving and we want to find ways of making it more accessible to the places who need it most.
These three key issues are important to us. They are why we are getting well-positioned problem solvers and potential funders together to roll their sleeves up and start shaping future prizes in areas that we know will benefit from their attention, because they are either overlooked, underfunded or not being innovated fast enough in line with society’s needs. All three areas have the ability to improve the lives of millions of people across the globe.
New ideas are the key to human progress, prosperity and happiness. In a rapidly changing world, we need new ideas to tackle the big challenges we face and empower people to shape the future.
Kate Adams is Director of Operations & Special Projects in the Challenge Prize Centre at Nesta.