Big ideas

20th April 2017

News, Alumni news

Rewarding transformative ideas which help improve the prosperity of the bottom third in advanced economies is the brainchild of Wadham alumnus Richard Koch (History, 1968).

  • Richard Koch (History, 1968)

The Richard Koch Breakthrough Prize, organised by the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) in London, looks for essays that will “exuberantly and openly seek new, exciting, free-market solutions to improve the prosperity of the bottom third of society in advanced economies.”

The 2017 winner of the £50,000 prize, an essay about local tax freedom by two Cambridge graduates, supports the idea of allowing regions and their cities to become self-governing, including having the power to set local tax rates for individuals and firms.  

Four highly commended prizes were also awarded, each worth £2,500. The proposals that they outlined include a means tested voucher system for private tuition and educational support for disadvantaged families; a chain of low cost private schools in the UK; Friendly Lending, a new kind of tax relief which encourages direct lending to social entrepreneurs and those on low incomes in the UK; and a Freedom of Housing Act to allow the UK property market to expand.

Commenting on his reason for launching the prize, Richard said: “I believe in the power of bold new market-based policies to change the economy and society.  Ideas such as free trade, privatisation, and the sale of council homes have proved their magic. Now is the time for a great new idea of similar force for good. So I am offering this Breakthrough Prize to transform the fortunes of millions of people whose lives are less rich than they should be. The idea exists; it is out there somewhere, in your mind and your imagination. Liberate the best idea in your mind and you can make a huge difference.”

Richard Koch (History, 1968) is a former management consultant, entrepreneur, and writer of several books on how to apply the Pareto principle (80/20 rule) in all walks of life. Richard has also used his concepts to make a fortune from several private equity investments made personally. Richard’s investments have included Filofax, Plymouth Gin, Belgo, Fanduel and Betfair. Previously he had been a consultant at Boston Consulting Group and later a partner at Bain and Company, before leaving to start management consulting firm L.E.K. Consulting with Jim Lawrence and Iain Evans.