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  • Tom Nicholas


Prizes, Patents and the Search for Longitude. Tom Nicholas, July 2015, Paper, "The 1714 Longitude Act created the Board of Longitude to administer a large monetary prize and progress payments for the precise determination of a ship’s longitude. It is frequently cited to justify the use of prize-based incentives over patents. Using new data on marine chronometer inventors we show that while the timing of the Board’s progress payments did not systematically influence entry or patents, the propensity to patent was high. Furthermore, the level of patents increased during the post-Board era as chronometers were cumulatively refined. The search for longitude relied on a complementarity between prizes and patents to produce a socially valuable innovation when private investment was low."