If you're a scientist with some spare time to work on extracurricular projects, there's a company that wants to reward you with as much as $100,000.

Here's how it works: An organization that relies on R&D, such as Eli Lilly and Company – which created the company, InnoCentive, as a spinoff – posts a challenge on the InnoCentive Web site http://www.innocentive.com. Challenges are typically technical dilemmas that a company's own work force can't solve, such as "Synthesis of 3-difluoromethyl-1-methyl-4-pyrazole carboxylic acid" or "High-throughput format for a biological assay."

Rather than hire extra technically-minded staffers, companies offer one-time rewards from a few thousand dollars to as much as $100,000 to scientists from around the world who can find a solution. "We've been called the eBay of science," says Ali Hussein, vice president of marketing at the Andover, Mass., company.

Some 80,000 scientists from 175 countries have registered for free on...

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