The Trial & Error Prize (CPN Challenge)

Posted by Rebecca Buchanan on Apr 24, 2015 11:40:14 AM

Thomas Edison’s attitude encapsulates the spirit of the Trial & Error Prize.  After trying two thousand different materials in search of a filament for the light bulb, his assistant complained, “All our work is in vain. We have learned nothing.” Edison replied very confidently, “Oh, we have come a long way and we have learned a lot. We know that there are two thousand elements which we cannot use to make a good light bulb.”

Too often - not just in scientific studies - but in society as a whole, when experiments or projects do not go according to plan, we treat them as failures rather than lessons that we can learn from. The current research community therefore tends to only publish scientific studies with ‘significant’ results and ignores studies that seem uneventful. Nevertheless, we can learn as much from ‘negative’ results as we can from ‘positive’ ones.

Lessons learned from research help to minimize the duplication of experiments and narrow down pathways of innovation. They may also lead to the generation of novel ideas to tackle the same problem. The goal of the Trial & Error Prize is therefore to foster the publication of research in an easily accessible format, which scientists would have been hesitant to reveal in normal circumstances. This will help make spinal cord injury (SCI) research more time and cost effective.

This Prize is a first for InnoCentive in that the top applications will be decided using a crowdvoting open review system on ResearchGate where applicants will upload their work. This will not only ensure a more democratic judging process but it should also act as a hotbed for improved information-sharing and collaboration, as researchers will be able to review and comment on each other’s work, and therefore learn from one another.

This Prize is also part of the ground-breaking CPN Challenge Program which will give up to $10 million in prizes and grants over the next 10 years for those who can provide significant improvements in the quality of life of people living with spinal cord injury.  To build and maintain a thriving SCI research community, this Prize will run throughout the course of the Challenge Program. There is $3,000 available every quarter with the first ranked article receiving $1,500, the second $1,000 and the third $500.

The deadline for our first round of applications is 1st June 2015. For more information and details about how you can enter the Prize, please click here. If you have any queries please email

Topics: Innovation Insights, Challenges

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