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November 5, 2009

UW Evans School of Public Affairs to collaborate with X Prize Foundation

The Evans School of Public Affairs at the UW and the X Prize Foundation are launching the X Prize Lab@UW, which will produce new ideas for X Prizes.


Competitors face stiff problems, the kind that don’t get solved easily, but for their efforts, winners walk away with $10 million or more.


The foundation, based in Playa Vista, Calif., is an educational nonprofit that awards prizes to the first team to achieve a defined goal which benefits humanity and creates new opportunities.


The first award, the Ansari X Prize, went to a 2004 team financed by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen and led by aircraft designer Burt Rutan. Their team built SpaceShipOne, a reusable, manned spacecraft and the first model for private space flight. It now hangs in the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum in Washington, D.C.


At the Evans School, graduate students aided by faculty members and community stakeholders will research the prize philanthropy model, producing ideas and criteria for judging new X Prizes in space and ocean exploration, life sciences, energy and the environment, education and global development.


“The X Prize laboratory here at the UW will tap into Evans School strengths in interdisciplinary public policy as well as regional strengths in science, technology and business management,” said Sandra O. Archibald, dean of the Evans School.


This collaboration is the second X Prize lab in the U.S; the first is at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.


“The UW is a leading public research university, so work with the X Prize is appropriate,” said Ann Bostrom, a professor and associate dean for research at the Evans School. “The UW is strong in science and technology and has an internationally recognized policy program. Work with the X Prize Foundation also fits very well with the Evans School’s interest in philanthropy; the school operates the Nancy Bell Evans Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy.”


“We want to create innovative ways for students to approach problems and the Evans School is the perfect place to do it,” said X Prize Foundation spokesman Michael Timmons. “We believe that in the X Prize laboratory, UW students will extend the idea of incentivized problem solving.”


Nelson Del Rio, a UW graduate and principal in the real estate development and investment company Sonnenblick Del Rio, based in Los Angeles, helped bring about the partnership between Evans School and the X Prize Foundation. “The Evans School is a national leader in policy issues,” Del Rio said. “I believe it is the ideal home for the X Prize laboratory because of leadership, faculty, and students who understand the importance of incentives in solving complicated problems.”


The first X Prize laboratory at the UW will begin in January 2010. At the end of each quarter-long lab, students will present their ideas to senior X Prize Foundation leaders and members of its board of trustees.


According to U.S. News & World Report, the Evans School is ranked 12th among American schools of public affairs, fifth in nonprofit management and fourth in environmental policy and management.


For more information on the X Prize, visit online here.