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The Market Shaping Accelerator (MSA) is a new initiative at the University of Chicago aiming to accelerate innovations to address pressing global challenges. It is led by Michael Kremer, Rachel Glennerster and Christopher Snyder. Our current focus areas are climate change, biosecurity and pandemic preparedness. We recently launched the MSA Innovation Challenge, which will award up to $2,000,000 total in prizes for ideas about problems to tackle with pull incentives for innovation in these areas. Pull mechanisms reward outputs and outcomes in contrast to push funding which pay for inputs (e.g. research grants). 

We want to invite members of the EA community and others to submit your ideas to the challenge. We are interested in hearing from domain experts, innovators, EA organizations as well as people just interested in a problem. You can read more about the challenge here (check out the FAQ on the bottom of this page) and view the application template hereThe deadline to submit for Phase I is Friday, July 21, 2023 (12 PM CT). Submissions that meet a minimum criteria will receive $4,000. Up to $500,000 in prizes will be awarded in Phase I.

Ideas that are selected for entry into Phase II will benefit from support and guidance of the MSA team as well as domain specialists to help turn their ideas into fully worked up contracts. Top ideas will also gain the MSA’s support in fundraising for the multi-millions or billions of dollars needed to back their pull mechanism. 

ITN Framework

The MSA Innovation Challenge is partly informed by the ITN Framework  –  we are seeking to surface major problems (importance), that can plausibly be addressed by innovation (tractability), but where innovation is under-incentivized by markets (neglectedness).  

We would welcome both technologically close and technologically distant targets – we think pull mechanisms can accelerate innovation and scale up for both. 

What is pull funding? 

Pull mechanisms reward outputs and outcomes rather than fund inputs. They create an incentive for the private sector to invest in R&D and bring solutions to market. Advance Market Commitments (AMCs) are an example of a pull mechanism. AMCs involve promising, in advance, to purchase or subsidize the purchase of a large quantity of an innovative product if it is invented. The $1.5 billion Advance Market Commitment for the Pneumococcal Vaccine was launched in 2009. Since then three vaccines for the strains of pneumococcus common in low- and middle-income countries have been developed, hundreds of millions of doses delivered, and an estimated 700,000 lives saved. The rate of vaccine coverage for the pneumococcal vaccine in GAVI countries converged to the global rate five years faster than for the rotavirus vaccine which GAVI supported without an AMC.

Pull mechanisms have important advantages:

  • They can be designed to be firm and solution-agnostic. The funder does not have to choose a particular firm or technological path in advance, they can just commit to rewarding an effective solution.
  • The funder does not have to pay unless the targets are met. Payment can be linked to scale and take-up.
  • They reduce demand uncertainty – they can signal to firms there will be demand for socially useful innovations. 
  • They can incentivize solutions that appeal to consumers. The funder can provide a matching subsidy to a consumer purchase. This incentivizes firms to develop products that consumers will actually use. 

Further reading

If you can think of interventions that would benefit from the use of pull mechanisms and can help promote biosecurity, prepare for pandemics, and/or fight climate change, please submit your idea(s) to the challenge! Please send questions to marketshaping@uchicago.edu. Excited to see your ideas!





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Just a note, that the Chicago folks are not using biosecurity as exclusively x-risk pandemic prevention, but more general infection containment (confirmed with them via email)

Do you have a sense whether they might be open to pandemic proof home designs? Especially homes resilient to really severe pandemics.

Really can't say, totally recommend reaching out to them via email, they responded within hours. 

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