Dwayne Spradlin, president and chief executive of InnoCentive, said in an interview that the company had solved 250 challenges, for prizes typically in the $10,000 to $25,000 range. According to the Web site (http://www.innocentive.com/), the achievements include a compound for skin tanning, a method of preventing snack chip breakage and a mini-extruder in brick-making.Apparently, the website is gaining traction among non-profit groups eager to solve global problems.
Solution outsourcing goes back to "the work of John Harrison, the 18th-century clockmaker who, in response to a prize offered by the British Parliament, solved the problem of determining longitude at sea by inventing a clock that would keep good time even in heavy weather." In a variation of the approach, Senator John McCain "has proposed that the government offer $300 million to whoever invents a battery compact enough, powerful enough and cheap enough to replace fossil fuels."
Of course, more often than not the real challenge is identifying the right problem to solve in the first place.