A US-based non-profit organisation XPrize, which has been motivating development of ideas with large monetary prizes, is hoping for major breakthroughs from India. Promoted by Ratan Tata and a few Indian-born Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, XPrize India will aim to redefine how the world thinks about a problem and its possible solution.

With an initial India prize purse of ₹10 crore to ₹30 crore, the XPrize Foundation is to launch the India chapter on December 11 in Mumbai. Zenia Tata, Programme Director for Global Expansions at XPrize, says she has a fervent hope that an Indian team would create radical breakthroughs for the benefit of humanity.

Speaking about the organisation that encourages technological development, Tata said, “XPrize is an innovation engine. We are here to create some kind of a radical breakthrough. We need to take exponential leaps forward. Our model allows us to take those leaps.”

Stating that solutions can come from anyone, anywhere, she added, “We believe that ordinary people too are capable of taking those exponential leaps, not just the MITians and IITians. But you need to incentivise them. We provide that incentive.”

Main proponent

In an exclusive tete-a-tete with BusinessLine , Tata added that this would be the first XPrize outside the US, and also the first country-specific XPrize to tap into the greatest minds.

Ratan Tata, Chairman Emeritus of Tata Sons, had become a member of the XPrize Foundation’s Board of Trustees some years ago. Along with Tata, the Board includes Google founders Larry Page and Eric Schmidt, acclaimed filmmaker James Cameron, Navin Jain, Chairman of Inome, Arianna Huffington of the Huffington Post Media Group and PayPal Co-founder Elon Musk among others.

The Board’s guidance is in exploring new industries where XPrize can have a significant impact, by creating innovative competitions that motivate individuals across all boundaries to solve challenges.

The XPrize Foundation intends to solve global challenges with prizes in exploration, energy and environment, global development, learning and life sciences.

Among its many endeavours are the $30 million Google Lunar XPprize, the $10 million Qualcomm Tricorder XPrize, the $2.25 million Nokia Sensing XChallenge, and the $2 million Wendy Schmidt Ocean Health XPrize.

Convinced that India could benefit from XPrize Foundation’s presence, and XPrize could leverage India’s intellectual prowess, Ratan Tata and other India-born US entrepreneurs have invested the initial funds.

A relation of Ratan Tata, Zenia Tata said that Tata Sons’ Chairman Emeritus was very keen “on bringing the model to India, as yet another way to ignite innovation. He really believes that the next big things that come out in the world should come from India. It is not just that India can do it cheaper or quicker, but that India can solve some of the challenges facing humanity”.


Stating that India was the perfect incubation ground and that “XPrize is keen to turn science fiction into science reality”, Tata said the new prizes would cater to India-specific issues like clean drinking water, solid waste management, development of micro nutrients, mass transport systems, among others.

“One of the major issues we would be looking at is upskilling the semi-literate population so that they participate in a more productive way in the economy,” said Tata, adding that the first few prizes to tackle global development issues would be from India.

“We would be offering a bunch of India prizes to tackle issues related to water, food, energy, waste, connectivity...and am hoping to do a prize in solar storage,” she added.

XPrize is also looking at micro nutrients in food. “Is there a magic pill, or a chewing gum, or a wearable device that provides perfect dosage and is easy to administer? We are talking to a couple of Indian pharma and chemical companies about sponsoring a prize, and have noticed an astounding interest in this from Indian corporates,” added Tata.