Qualcomm Launches QPrize Competition

5/7/09

Joining in the latest wave of funding innovation, San Diego’s Qualcomm (NASDAQ: QCOM) today launched a new international business plan competition called the QPrize.

In a short announcement, the wireless chipmaker said its corporate venture fund has created a pool of $550,000 to provide early stage funding to the most-promising plans submitted by entrepreneurs “who can accelerate wireless technologies in key business sectors.”

Qualcomm Ventures will select a semi-finalist from China, India, Europe, and North America. The four semi-finalists will each receive $100,000 in funding and an invitation to Qualcomm Ventures’ CEO Summit in San Diego in November to compete  for a Grand Prize. There are no entry fees, but Qualcomm’s rules require participants to pay for their own travel and accommodations.

Qualcomm says the winner of the final QPrize competition will get an additional $150,000 in convertible note funding.

History is replete with examples of cash prizes that were used to spur innovation. One of the most-notable success stories was a series of prizes established by the British government in 1714 for a method that could precisely calculate the longitude of a ship at sea.

The X Prize, which was created in 1996 and awarded in 2004, has revitalized the practice. Peter Diamandis, who created the $10 million X Prize to stimulate the development of technologies capable of taking ordinary people into space, has said he was inspired by the $25,000 Orteig Prize that Charles Lindbergh claimed in 1927 with his solo flight from New York to Paris. The U.S. government even joined in, with the Pentagon sponsoring a contest to develop autonomous robotic vehicles.

In Qualcomm’s case, the company appears to be using its QPrize as part of its broader strategy to proactively seed its proprietary technology across various markets. By stimulating the creation of new companies, especially in China and India, the wireless giant can broaden its sphere of influence by creating a business ecosystem that shares the same technology.

[Xconomy San Diego Editor Bruce V. Bigelow contributed to this report]

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