March 30, 2020 – Education

Wanted: New ideas to address the new pandemic


Wanted: New ideas to address the new pandemic

William Shakespeare wrote King Lear (and possibly Macbeth) when London’s Globe theater was forced to shut down. Isaac Newton discovered calculus after he fled London during the Great Plague. These are just two of the memes floating through our digital world as individuals settle into their homes during the COVID-19 pandemic.

These anecdotes provide solace, but they also offer truth. Ingenuity thrives at times of adversity. We have witnessed that fact over and over during the last several weeks as professors look for novel ways to reach their students, as small business owners try to keep their doors open virtually, and as American industry works to meet expanding health care needs.

George Mason University’s Mercatus Center, which receives support from the Charles Koch Foundation, is working to foster discovery during this extraordinary time. To start, the Mercatus Center has launched a special COVID-19 policy brief series that offers innovative and action-oriented responses to the pandemic and options for recovery. Click here to browse the published briefs. Proposals related to this series can be submitted here

The Mercatus Center’s Emergent Ventures, which supports entrepreneurs and thinkers trying to meaningfully improve society, is awarding more than $1 million in prize money for cutting-edge work on COVID-19. Prizes are in areas such as:

  • $500,000 and $200,000 prizes for the best efforts to find a good treatment rapidly
  • $100,000 for best innovation in social distancing
  • $100,000 for most important innovation or improvement for India
  • $100,000 for the best blog or social media tracking/analysis of the virus
  • $50,000 for the best investigative journalism on coronavirus
  • $50,000 for best coronavirus policy writing

There is no application for these prizes; Emergent Ventures will award them when a significant success is spotted. (Click here to see the first cohort of winners.) Tyler Cowen, faculty director at Mercatus, explained, “When it comes to fighting COVID-19, we don’t know where the critical advancements and breakthroughs are going to come from. These prizes are a way to incentivize innovation.”

The Mercatus Center also invites individuals to apply for grant funding for COVID-19 projects through the Emergent Ventures portal. Mercatus has said COVID-related applications will be fast-tracked until the pandemic has abated.

Finally, Mercatus has pre-released its long-planned 2020 edition of the Healthcare Openness and Access Project (HOAP). This resource offers ideas to policymakers for how to improve healthcare delivery and access as COVID-19 sweeps the country. Click here for more information.

If you, your company, or foundation want to support these efforts, please contact Mercatus Center directly.