Bill Gates and his wife Melinda have offered a $1 million startup grant to the person who can invent "the next generation of condom" this week.
While the bid to inventors surprises some, Gates explained on the Grand Challenge website that a new, improved condom is necessary. Condoms provide a cheap, simple solution to the spread of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
"Male condoms are cheap, easy to manufacture, easy to distribute, and available globally, including in resource-poor settings, through numerous well-developed distribution channels," the foundation said on the website.
The plea points out that use of male condoms are on the decline and that an improved product could lead to substantial benefits, citing a decrease in unplanned pregnancies and preventing HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.
Moreover, Gates' challenge notes that ideas regarding female condoms are also welcome, but that they are substantially more expensive than their male counterparts.
Using Next Generation Condom, the Microsoft billionaire hopes to develop a better product, for condoms have been used "for about 400 years, yet they have undergone very little technological improvement in the past 50 years."
"We are looking for a Next Generation Condom that significantly preserves or enhances pleasure, in order to improve uptake and regular use," the website added.
In order to submit a product and apply for funding, applicants must include a testable hypothesis, an associated plan for how the idea would be tested or validated, and must yield interpretable and unambiguous data.
On Twitter, Gates' call to inventors is being welcomed with praise.
"Finally wealthiest among us are getting serious about what matters," posted John
Alexander wrote, "I've said that somebody needs to do this for ages: Bill Gates wants geeks to build a better #condom."