The Longitude Prize: What’s The Biggest Scientific Challenge Today? ($16 Million Could Be Yours!)


Two British organizations are offering $16 million to the person who can best solve a scientific challenge. And it wants the public to vote on which of six challenges most needs a solution.

The Longitude Prize is being funded by the Technology Strategy Board (a semi-independent government agency) and organized by Nesta (a charity.) It takes its name from a government competition in 1714 that offered £20,000 to anyone who could find a way to measure longitude to within 30 nautical miles.

Although nobody won the official prizes, the government handed out around £100,000, equivalent to £12.5 million (around US $20 million) in today’s money. The biggest payment went to John Harrison (pictured) who invented the marine chromoter.

The revived contest will have a total prize fund of £10 million. A panel of scientists, engineers and politicians have drawn up a shortlist of six challenges, but the public will pick which will be the focus of the competition.

Anyone can vote, regardless of location, though you’ll have to register on the BBC website. You can then vote up to three times.

The six challenges, detailed on the competition website are:

  • How can we prevent the rise of resistance to antibiotics?
  • How can we help people with dementia live independently for longer?
  • How can we fly without damaging the environment?
  • How can we ensure everyone has nutritious, sustainable food?
  • How can we restore movement to those with paralysis?
  • How can we ensure everyone can have access to safe and clean water?

Once a winning category is chosen, officials will decide the exact scope and criteria of the prize contest itself.

So readers, which category would you vote for? And would you go for the problem that most needs a solution, or the one where you think the cash prizes are most likely to spark an effective invention?