Build a Better Bulb for a $10 Million Prize

By Eric A. Taub and Leora Broydo Vestel on September 24, 2009

The ubiquitous but highly inefficient 60-watt light bulb badly needs a makeover. And it could be worth millions in government prize money — and more in government contracts — to the first company that figures out how to do it.

Right now, that company could be Philips, the Dutch electronics giant. The company announced on Thursday that it had submitted the first entry for the L Prize, an Energy Department contest that will award up to $10 million to the first person or group to create a new energy-sipping version of the most popular type of light bulb used in America.

As the first entrant, Philips will win the prize if its claims hold up. Testing of the Philips lamp will take close to a year to complete as the department independently evaluates the company’s claims.

The $10 million is almost beside the point. More important, the contest winner will receive consideration for potentially lucrative federal purchasing agreements, not to mention a head start at cracking a vast consumer marketplace.

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