Prizes for innovations are currently experiencing a renaissance, following their marked decline during the nineteenth century. Debates about such incentive mechanisms tend to employ canonical historical anecdotes to motivate and support the analysis and policy proposals. Daguerre's "patent buyout," the Longitude Prize, inducement prizes for butter substitutes and billiard balls, the activities of the Royal Society of Arts and other "encouragement" institutions-all comprise potentially misleading case studies. The article surveys and summarizes extensive empirical research using samples drawn from Britain, France, and the United States, including "great inventors" and their ordinary counterparts, and prizes at industrial exhibitions. The results suggest that administered systems of rewards to innovators suffered from a number of disadvantages in design and practice, which might be inherent to their nonmarket orientation.
Khan, B. Zorina, "Inventing Prizes: A Historical Perspective on Innovation Awards and Technology Policy" (2015). Economics Faculty Publications. 4.