Medical innovation prizes as a mechanism to promote innovation and access

Prizes are an appealing answer to a thorny dilemma. How can society ensure that knowledge goods, which are both costly to create and potentially non-rival in use, can be shared freely? There is little doubt today that the current approach to rewarding the development of new medicines or diagnostic devices has severe deficiencies. Patent enforced monopolies often lead to high prices. Critics also say that this system often fails to stimulate investment in areas of public interest and priority.

The prize system is a way of rethinking the problem. If the incentive for innovation can be divorced from the product's consumer price, then knowledge goods -- including the R&D for a new medicine -- can be placed in the public domain immediately, so that competition among suppliers leads to low prices and greater access to new medical inventions. Prizes can be implemented in many different ways. Specifically for donors and governments, prizes might provide an alternative to marketing monopolies as the reward for successful investments in R&D.

This high-profile workshop organised by KEI and UNU-MERIT will bring together outstanding leaders in policy, academia, industry and civil society from all over the world. We will consider the economics of the use of monetary prizes as an alternative mechanism to stimulate private investments in R&D.

The workshop is foreseen to take place on Jan. 28/29, 2008, at UNU-MERIT in Maastricht, The Netherlands

Venue: Bouillonstraat 1-3, Maastricht

Date: 28-29 January 2008