Looks like they work . . .
Inducement Prizes and Innovation.
By: Brunt, Liam (Dept. of Economics, Norwegian School of Economics and Business Administration)
Lerner, Josh (Harvard Business School)
Nicholas, Tom (Harvard Business School)
We examine the effect of prizes on innovation using data on awards for technological development offered by the Royal Agricultural Society of England at annual competitions between 1839 and 1939. We find large effects of the prizes on competitive entry and we also detect an impact of the prizes on the quality of contemporaneous patents, especially when prize categories were set by a strict rotation scheme, thereby mitigating the potentially confounding effect that they targeted only “hot” technology sectors. Prizes encouraged competition and medals were more important than monetary awards. The boost to innovation we observe cannot be explained by the re-direction of existing inventive activity.