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Longitude 2014 - background

Longitude Prize 2014, a challenge with a prize fund of 10 million pound, has been launched to help solve one the greatest issues of our time. The British public will cast the deciding vote to choose the issue that the prize will tackle. The prize has been developed and run by Nesta, the UK’s innovation foundation. It was launched by the Prime Minister at G8 last year, and is being supported by the Technology Strategy Board, the UK’s innovation agency, as funding partner.

Longitude Prize 2014 commemorates the 300th anniversary of the Longitude Act where in 1714 the British government threw down the gauntlet to solve one of the great scientific challenges of that century: how to pinpoint a ship’s location at sea by knowing its longitude. The challenge was solved by watchmaker and carpenter John Harrison who designed the chronometer, the first seafaring clock that allowed accurate navigation. The solution not only led to safer sea travel but opened up global trade.   

Over the last two years, Nesta and Astronomer Royal Lord Martin Rees have brought together a high-level committee to bring the new prize to life and identify some of the equivalent challenges facing us today. The work of the committee was informed by a stakeholder consultation and public dialogue supported by the Department for Business Innovation and Skills Innovation Directorate and the Sciencewise programme.

The Longitude Committee has shortlisted six major issues facing humanity. The next step will be a public vote on which should be the focus of Longitude Prize 2014.

Aims and objectives

The purposes of this project are:

•    To ensure that the public and stakeholders are engaged in the scope and framing of a Longitude Prize 2014 for innovation in science and technology

•    To ensure that there is a high degree of transparency around the process for developing longitude challenges

•    To frame and develop specific ideas and topics for potential challenges under each challenge theme by engaging with the public and stakeholders.

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