The public is being asked to help choose the next big scientific innovation by voting on one of six challenges selected by over 100 top scientists. The chosen research will then be the focus of the $17 million Longitude Prize announced last June by British PM David Cameron. The fields the scientists have selected are food, water scarcity, climate change, antimicrobial resistance, paralysis and dementia, and public voting takes place this week through late June.
The prize was created in conjunction with the 300th anniversary of the Longitude Act, a law passed by the British government in 1714 that offered a prize to the solver of that era's greatest technological challenge, that of determining longitude when out to sea.
Once the topic is selected, inventors around the world will have 5 years to work on it, with the winner taking home the $17 million. Each field on the shortlist has an associated goal for innovators. They vary pretty widely in scope and are as follows (from the official website):
Food — The challenge is to invent the next big food innovation, helping to ensure a future where everyone has enough nutritious, affordable and environmentally sustainable food.
Water — The challenge is to alleviate the growing pressure on the planet's fresh water by creating a cheap, environmentally sustainable desalination technology.
Climate — The challenge is to design and build an aeroplane that is as close to zero-carbon as possible and capable of flying from London to Edinburgh, at comparable speed to today's aircraft.
Antibiotics — The challenge is to create a cost-effective, accurate, rapid, and easy-to-use test for bacterial infections that will allow health professionals worldwide to administer the right antibiotics at the right time.
Paralysis — The challenge is to invent a solution that gives paralysed people close to the same freedom of movement that most of us enjoy.
Dementia — The challenge is to develop intelligent, affordable integrated technologies that revolutionize care for people with dementia, enabling them to live independent lives.
The reason I've posted this of course is to solicit your opinions. What do YOU think is the biggest scientific challenge of our time? What invention do you think could have the greatest postive impact?