San Diego’s Qualcomm Embraces Experiment in Incentive Prizes

7/2/12Follow @bvbigelow

It’s probably still too early to know if incentive prize competitions will prove to be a sustainable method for advancing technology innovation, but Qualcomm (NASDAQ: QCOM) has embraced the idea—at least as an experimental hypothesis.

The San Diego wireless technology giant has been testing the concept in various ways, beginning about three years ago with the introduction of its international QPrize competition, organized by Qualcomm Ventures. The company also has been working with the X-Prize Foundation to set the ground rules for its $10 million Tricorder X Prize to stimulate the invention of a mobile wireless device that could be used to rapidly diagnose injuries and illness. Qualcomm also sponsored a “Snapdragon Gaming World Record Challenge” during the E3 gaming conference last month, awarding $20,000 to Efren Ballestamon of Chula Vista, CA, while a group of gamers set the Guinness World Record for the “Longest Mobile Gaming Marathon” at just over 26 hours.

The QPrize has been successful enough for Qualcomm to increase the total amount of cash awards this year to $1 million, and to add regional competitions in Eastern Europe and Brazil to existing contests in North America, China, India, Israel, Korea, and Western Europe. Qualcomm’s motivation is twofold: To help entrepreneurs who have very little access to capital, and to help seed the mobile and wireless ecosystem with Qualcomm-compatible technology.

Qualcomm is collecting data and gaining experience with each type of prize contest it comes up with, and last week the company tried something new. The Qualcomm team responsible for encouraging software developers to work on the company’s Snapdragon technology platform hosted nearly 200 at a “hackathon and codefest,” held in San Diego the day before its annual Uplinq developers’ conference. The all-day app development contest offered a total of $50,000 in cash prizes, awarding $5,000 to the best app in five categories and an additional $25,000 grand prize for best overall app.

The idea makes perfect sense as a way to … Next Page »

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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