Wood Stove Design Challenge

Why a Wood Stove Technology Challenge?

Spurring Innovation
Technology competitions, also known as inducement prizes, have been used as a tool to stimulate innovation since at least the 16th century, when the King of Spain offered a prize of $6,000 gold ducats - plus $2,000 more a year for life - to the person who could devise a way of finding longitude at sea. At the time, no Spaniard was able to do it, but a similar contest offered by the British Parliament in 1714 produced John Harrison's famous marine chronometer.

There is a healthy debate about when and which technology competitions produce genuine innovation and when they just serve to increase public interest in an issue or help to build communities around finding solutions. Historically, many competitions have been shown to result in greater technological innovation. Liam Brunt and his team at the Norwegian School of Economics found a link between the number of prizes offered and the number of patents awarded for agricultural innovation in 19th century Britain. And Priscilla Brewster speculated that a 1796 United States wood stove competition, despite receiving only four entries, sparked enough interest in wood combustion technology to launch a surge of new patents.

Community Building
According to a 2010 article in the Economist, "prizes also help form new alliances." Prizes can bring together people from different institutions and disciplines who normally would not interact with each other and produce lasting alliances. The 2009 contest sponsored by Netflix was won by a team of seven people who collaborated online and only met each other when they collected their winnings.

Attract Publicity
Prizes generate public enthusiasm and raise the profile of the technology featured. Prizes also can influence consumer attitudes and behavior. Even the announcement of a prize, like building a car that can get 100 mpg, can influence perceptions and expectations. Consumers are more likely to find a product that has proven its worth in a competition worthy of their purchase. And since the tests are objective and impartial, they add another layer of legitimacy to the claims made by manufacturers and inventors.

Train and Educate Future Innovators
Contests help provide technical skills and training for students and others interested in that field of innovation. The education and skill-building of young, clean energy engineers are among the Solar Decathlon’s main goals. The Decathlon organizers believes that the future of clean energy, whether it is solar or wood heat, depends on the enthusiastic participation of the younger generation.

Bring Attention to a Neglected Issue
Another benefit to contests is that they help raise the profile of an issue to the public or policy makers. This is the rationale behind several prizes, such as the ongoing Breant Prize to cure cholera launched in 1854 and the Advanced Market Commitment for a pneumococcal vaccine announced in 2007. Many technology competitions serve humanitarian purpose as well.

Famous Technology Challenges
Historically, there have been many challenges and prizes designed to spur technological innovation. Here are a few of the most famous highlights:

Other Stove Competitions References
Slawinski, Nadia. (2011). "The Kachelofen: Its Time has Come, Again." Ceramic Arts Daily:

Radkau, Joachim. (2012). Wood: A History. Polity Press, Cambridge, UK. Pg. 213. A7nt3CNbTH&sig=3adPfDW9GLXFgEj2ilgTmpTE7W8&hl=en&sa=X&ei=h8cFT83mDcL5ggeUn7T9BA &ved=0CEwQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=Baumer%20stove%201764&f=false

Brewer, Priscilla J. (2000). From Fireplace to Cookstove: Technology and the Domestic Ideal in America. Syracuse University Press, Syracuse: NY.

Economist (2010). "And the winner is..."

Masters, William A. & Delbecq, Benoit. (2008). "Accelerating Innovation with Prize Rewards."

Wood Stove Decathlon