Cash can be a motivator and there are a number of competitions which are now using cash to spur technological breakthroughs. For example, the  XPRIZE Foundation lives by the tag line’ Innovation Through Competition.’

“The first X Prize was modeled after many prizes from the early 20th century that helped prod the development of air flight, including most notably the $25,000 Orteig Prize that spurred Charles Lindbergh to make his solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean” (Wikiepdia). The Ansari XPRIZE was the first space focused competition which ultimately led to  26 teams competing for $10 Million. From that effort, several other prizes have been developed in and outspace. They range from a high performance lighting prize to one for a more fuel efficient car.

There’s also blog that’s covering some of these prizes called Space Prizes.

Is money the primary motivator for innovation ?

Passion might be what  drives our dreams but money, aka currency, is the energy that we sometimes need to actualize those  dreams. Cash ought not to be seen as the only motivator though. The development of new technology many times draws individuals who simply seek to solve a challenge whether it’s for intellectual curiosity or some other more practical issue.

Other competitions & Groups – Some of these groups are not yet funded. If you are an individual or organization with the means consider the opportunity to underwrite one of the prizes.

Another  recent Popular Mechanics article on New Space.

Excerpt from August 2009 Popular Mechanics article by Michael Belifore.

The cost of the cheapest ever satellite launch stands at more than $200,000. So is it possible to send an object into orbit for the cost of a new laptop? That’s the goal behind the N-Prize, a contest organized by U.K. molecular biologist Paul Dear. The winner will have to launch an object weighing about 0.35 to 0.7 ounces into space for less than $1500. The satellite will then have to stay up for at least nine orbits to win the $15,000 prize.