In 1714 the British Parliament offered £20.000 to anyone who could develop a device that enabled ships to determine their position (in terms of longitude). This was to save lives and fortunes in the cargoes and probably also to make the kings navy more influential in the oceans.
The winner was John Harrison with a clock that kept precise time and allowed the longitude to be calculated. The story is told in Dava Sobel's book Longitude and is a very good example of "Technology Procurement". A method that has been downscaled and developed in later years for energy efficiency improvements.
In 2007 sir Richard Branson offers £12.800.000 to those who can solve the problems with the climate change. He actually also make the parallel to the "Longitude contest". For Mr. Harrison it took almost 60 years (!) before his invention was recognised as the winner. We can only hope for us all that the temptation of this new price is so huge that the process is faster. We do not have 60 years to spare!
As for Sir Richard there are however some doubts about his real drivers! He is actually also behind the idea of space-tourism. So his interest could be not primarily for the good of the planet but for finding the magic wand that allows further waste but only cleaner.Log in to post comments