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UK Government Asks: What's The Greatest Challenge Of Our Time?


Now, a prize that's making a return: the Longitude Prize.


It was set up in 1714 by the British government to solve the greatest challenge of that time: Pinpoint a ship's location at sea by knowing its longitude.

CORNISH: Three hundred years later, there's a video announcing its return.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: We're at the dawn of a new world.

SIEGEL: Its committee is led by Lord Martin Rees, a professor at Cambridge University.

LORD MARTIN REES: And I also have the title of Astronomer Royal.

CORNISH: Astronomer royal - yeah, that's a thing.

SIEGEL: He and his committee are asking the U.K. what's the greatest challenge of our time?

REES: We thought the best way to proceed was to identify six different areas and then let the public vote.

CORNISH: Six challenges. OK. Provide clean water to the world.

SIEGEL: Design a low carbon means of flight.

CORNISH: Restore movement for those with paralysis.

SIEGEL: Help people with dementia live independently.

CORNISH: Prevent resistance to antibiotics.

SIEGEL: Or innovate food production.

CORNISH: Voting begins Thursday. Once the challenge is chosen, competition is open for the 10 million pound prize - that's almost $17 million of public and private money.

SIEGEL: The winner of the first Longitude Prize was a clock maker named John Harrison. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Robert Siegel
Prior to his retirement, Robert Siegel was the senior host of NPR's award-winning evening newsmagazine All Things Considered. With 40 years of experience working in radio news, Siegel hosted the country's most-listened-to, afternoon-drive-time news radio program and reported on stories and happenings all over the globe, and reported from a variety of locations across Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, and Asia. He signed off in his final broadcast of All Things Considered on January 5, 2018.
Audie Cornish
Over two decades of journalism, Audie Cornish has become a recognized and trusted voice on the airwaves as co-host of NPR's flagship news program, All Things Considered.