Hooray for McCain. A $300 million Contest for A Better Battery Is A Great Idea.

Posted by: Bruce Nussbaum on June 24, 2008

Way to go John McCain. There is nothing more imporant to the US and the world than an incentive-driven competitive innovation process to produce a better battery. A smaller, ligher, more efficient car battery is key to getting the global economy off its addiction to fossil fuels. And just as the $10 million X-Prize proved to be a powerful incentive for the creation of a non-governmental space ship (and Lindbergh won the Orteig Prize for the first transatlantic airplane flight), so too could McCain’s idea push the edge on battery technology.

There are many ways to incentivize innovation. VC money. Government money. Corporate R&D. Labs (government and private). Serious prize money and well designed contests reward both crowd-sourcing and individual genius kinds of creation.

My only problem with the McCain Contest is that $300 million is probably too much money. It implies government bigness and huge scale. The X Prize Foundation gives out ten million bucks and that seems incentive enough.

But that’s a quibble. Both McCain and Obama have not talked very much about innovation to date. With this $300 million contest for a better car battery, McCain leaps ahead in the debate, even without uttering the word “innovation.”

So Barack, what does innovation mean to you?

Reader Comments

Christopher

June 25, 2008 4:22 AM

It's a horrible idea. Prizes should be used to spur innovation where the market isn't willing to invest. The market is VERY willing to invest here. And there's battery R&D happening left and right. Now investing in that R&D might be helpful. But a prize is an after the fact thing, and the marketplace for a better battery is a multi-billion dollar business. The incentive is there.

Of course, batteries have a huge problem -- peak lithium. There's only so much left. And we are likely to hit that ceiling early. Now a prize to build a battery out of a renewable resource -- that would be interesting.

Meanwhile, Barack is advocating the kinds of land usage and urban redevelopment that the progressive, innovative voices have been talking about for years, even decades. Smart growth, pedestrian cyclist oriented communities, investment in transit.

As I've said before, we might have driven into this mess, but we aren't going to drive out, nor should we. Cars have done more to hurt American cities and communities than practically any other recent invention.

Anastasia

June 26, 2008 4:23 PM

I agree with Christopher. $300M is nothing compared to the deals that various lithium-ion battery manufacturers and other new fuel cell inventors are making with car companies. Another silly idea from an out-of-touch-with-reality GOP candidate. Maybe $300M was a lot of money in his day and cash prizes was how poele got stuff done. But today due to inflation (I'm sure he doesn't know anything about that since he's so bad on economy)only billions of dollars motivate poeple...

BT

June 26, 2008 5:02 PM

Christopher, I disagree. The market is willing to invest in this area, but a further incentive at this point in time cannot be a bad thing, particularly if the battery demanded is feat of engineering - i.e. something that will move us past the lithium-ion quandry (see this article on wikipedia regarding batteries for potential alternatives). While I admire the lifestyle choices Sen. Obama wants us all to adopt, and as a user of Mass Transit even think it's a way better option, I don't think that (1) his policies let the market work, rather they force the market into solutions that people don't desire (which has never worked out well) and (2) don't address the fundamental problem, which is the lack of innovation in American society.

McCain's prize incentive is not only practical in an economic sense, but it also has the benefit of inspiring a new generation of engineers to new challenges.

For more reasons to support John McCain go to itsalldicta.blogspot.com

PacificGatePost

June 26, 2008 7:36 PM


OBAMA’S ARTISTRY OF THE AMBIGUOUS - It is not his lack of experience that will work against him.

Obama would be well served by his hired help if it could move him to specifics on numerous critical fronts.

Voters are looking for definitive action while they battle overwhelming increases in costs on all fronts.

http://pacificgatepost.blogspot.com/2008/06/obamas-artistry-of-ambiguous.html

David

June 26, 2008 8:35 PM

Let's put this in context. According to an article in AutoParts Report(June 18, 2001) Fiat planned to invest $11.9 billion between 2001 and 2005 on 19 new car models.

Automotive gas mileage hasn't improved much in the past 30 years. Research to improve battery performance is ongoing at companies like A123 systems(suppliers of battery technology used in current hybrids and Lithium-ion power tools). The incentive is there already for those who have the resources to pursue it. Those who don't are more in need of research grants.

Bottom line, McCain's prize is a gimmick, complete with a "$1 for every man woman and child" hook. It's as formulaic as an American Idol pop tune.

Jared

June 27, 2008 3:06 PM

Christopher and others:

This is ludicrous. Yes there is incentive, but have you ever studied economics? Everything here is relative. The more expensive gas becomes, the more attractive alternatives become (and, subsequently, the more is invested in their discovery and perfection). This prize accomplishes the same thing in spurring innovation, as it concentrates the pecuniary reward on one individual or group without necessitating 10 dollar gas.

What about the potential for capacitors that don't leak their charges, or, as another poster mentioned, batteries composed of material that is not lithium-ion? Nickle metal-hydride was the standard before lithium-ion, why do you pretend that there can be no further advancement?

I understand you support Obama, and I agree that mass transit is a great thing. But, not every act - by McCain or Obama - is defensible. If Obama had suggested this plan, you'd be lauding it. McCain beat him to the punch. Its a great idea; to suggest there's already enough 'incentive' shows a lack of comprehension regarding market economics or, worse, a willing blindness to the facts in order to support your candidate.

I don't support McCain, I support the views he holds. I am not Republican or Democrat - I'm not even a Moderate; I'm just a pragmatist.

Peter

June 27, 2008 8:00 PM

To all,

When I originally read the title of this subject I thought it was a good idea to get the ball rolling. Fact is, there should be a government backing of innovation programs, however low-ball figures of $300 million are not going to cut it, and they have to be an areas that are important to the future of this country. Good job, Mccain.

Whereas the fuel for vehicles is a huge issue, the mass transit argument is certainly the better of the two. I'd much rather use the $300 million to get started on a better Amtrak system that is similar to the ones they have in Europe. Good Job, Obama.

What you all need to understand is, even with the battery powered vehicles, you wont be able to have battery powered planes. With the rate at which they are going, cutting flights and raising prices, were going to need an alternative to long distance travel quicker than we will need that battery (regardless of what it is made of).

Bobisyouruncle

June 30, 2008 3:57 AM

Where have all the big thinkers gone? Peter and Christopher, are we limited in our view of what innovation in battery technology could mean? Perhaps it is a battery that is light enough to power an airplane? Perhaps it is a batter made from all sustainable materials and has longer life than any previous? And while public transportation is good, it also comes with a large expense within a city environment. Changes to the automobile could utilize our existing infrastructure and be better for the environment.

In the end, its an incentive to talk about and then start creating innovation. I'm not capable of judging a contest dollar amount, but I do know incentives work.

Kosmetyki

October 17, 2010 11:14 AM

I’ve been visiting your blog for a while now and I always find a gem in your new posts. Thanks for sharing.

used gmc 2500 duramax extended cab

November 1, 2010 8:03 AM

You certainly deserve a round of applause for your post and more specifically, your blog in general. Very high quality material

uninstall microsoft office 2000

November 4, 2010 4:56 PM

I just book marked your blog on Digg and StumbleUpon.I enjoy reading your commentaries.

acr registry cleaner

November 6, 2010 3:51 PM

I just book marked your blog on Digg and StumbleUpon.I enjoy reading your commentaries.

calories burned cycling

November 6, 2010 4:28 PM

I just book marked your blog on Digg and StumbleUpon.I enjoy reading your commentaries.

anti click installation program spyware watson

November 9, 2010 5:26 PM

I find myself coming to your blog more and more often to the point where my visits are almost daily now!

Sypeacepay

November 20, 2010 7:43 PM

Very Interesting Information! Thank You For Thi Blog!

Empassypype

November 23, 2010 2:41 PM

You certainly deserve a round of applause for your post and more specifically, your blog in general. Very high quality material

KatTawlnawl

November 28, 2010 4:51 PM

You certainly deserve a round of applause for your post and more specifically, your blog in general. Very high quality material

burn calories fast

December 5, 2010 3:40 PM

what javascript error keep on receiving everytime I tried to replied

BamaBelles

December 8, 2010 1:57 PM

Strike while the iron is hot

carqjtoq

December 22, 2010 7:04 PM

You certainly have some agreeable opinions and views. Your blog provides a fresh look at the subject.

antispywarencjgb

December 24, 2010 1:16 PM

I find myself coming to your blog more and more often to the point where my visits are almost daily now!

ogorekpureki

January 12, 2011 9:44 PM

You certainly have some agreeable opinions and views. Your blog provides a fresh look at the subject.

VEIDSWHEENI

January 13, 2011 7:28 PM

You certainly deserve a round of applause for your post and more specifically, your blog in general. Very high quality material

bangbrosnetwork

January 18, 2011 7:31 PM

Which Golf Clubs Are Better - Steel or Graphite ?

big busty tit babes

January 20, 2011 7:45 AM


Happy is the country which has no history.

busty babes indian

January 20, 2011 7:45 AM


Piss (shit) or get off the pot!

ecomanceCog

January 22, 2011 6:03 AM

You certainly have some agreeable opinions and views. Your blog provides a fresh look at the subject.

Managed VPS

January 24, 2011 1:23 PM

Very informative post. Thanks for taking the time to share your view with us.

MOWSHOUFFCIFS

January 24, 2011 7:14 PM

I’ve been visiting your blog for a while now and I always find a gem in your new posts. Thanks for sharing.

antitiarm

January 26, 2011 2:36 AM

I find myself coming to your blog more and more often to the point where my visits are almost daily now!

buy cheap tramadol tramadol ultram

February 4, 2011 2:14 AM

Thanks For This Post, was added to my bookmarks.

100mg tramadol overnight

February 5, 2011 12:01 PM

You certainly have some agreeable opinions and views. Your blog provides a fresh look at the subject.

Muttlally

February 6, 2011 8:09 PM

I just book marked your blog on Digg and StumbleUpon.I enjoy reading your commentaries.

tramadol urine levels

February 8, 2011 10:42 AM

You certainly have some agreeable opinions and views. Your blog provides a fresh look at the subject.

georgia auto auctions

February 20, 2011 5:04 AM

Very Interesting Post! Thank You For Thi Blog!

Noni

February 23, 2011 10:17 AM

I just sent this post to a bunch of my friends as I agree with most of what you’re saying here and the way you’ve presented it is awesome.

ONtotrobevore

February 27, 2011 8:57 PM

Awesome Post. I add this Blog to my bookmarks.

ErorneenetCok

March 3, 2011 6:40 PM

Very Interesting Information! Thank You For Thi Post!

Chiniuppy

March 6, 2011 6:06 AM

I find myself coming to your blog more and more often to the point where my visits are almost daily now!

Alveo

March 14, 2011 10:37 PM

I just sent this post to a bunch of my friends as I agree with most of what you’re saying here and the way you’ve presented it is awesome.

sdfsdgfd

April 16, 2011 7:10 AM

You certainly deserve a round of applause for your post and more specifically, your blog in general. Very high quality material

Modafinil Uberdosierung

May 3, 2011 2:14 PM


I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat. (Winston Churcill).

Diana Fulsom

May 14, 2011 5:15 PM

I have been offline for quite a while, but now that i'm here again, I remember why I used to love this site so much. I never took the time to say thank you though, I'll try to come by on a regular basis. How frequently do you ass new posts?

Post a comment

 

About

Want to stop talking about innovation and learn how to make it work for you? Bruce Nussbaum takes you deep into the latest thinking about innovation and design with daily scoops, provocative perspectives and case studies. Nussbaum is at the center of a global conversation on the growing discipline of innovation and the deepening field of design thinking. Read him to discover what social networking works—and what doesn’t. Discover where service innovation is going and how experience design is shaping up. Learn which schools are graduating the most creative talent and which consulting firms are the hottest. And get his take on what the smartest companies are doing in the U.S., Asia and Europe, far ahead of the pack.

BW Mall - Sponsored Links

Buy a link now!