Open Innovation in the Eighteenth Century: The Longitude Problem

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Overview: Forget Linux, Netflix, DARPA, and the X Prizes. Deliberate, managed open innovation goes back 300 years. At that time the determination of longitude at sea was both vitally important and apparently impossible; so having failed with a team of experts, Parliament sought solutions from a wider field via the Longitude Act of 1714, which offered a prize of £20,000 for a method of determining longitude to within 30 miles, to be proven on a voyage from Britain to the West Indies. The Act established a Board of Longitude to manage submissions, decide upon the prize, and, if necessary, grant additional money to support an inventor’s progress. The process created for the administration of the Longitude prize remains as relevant today as any modern prize-based example.

Keywords: Innovation prizes; Longitude prize; Open innovation

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: July 1, 2012

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