FX prediction market has a bet on the likelihood of an alloy high-Tc superconductor by 2017. The current market value of this places it at 65% likely.
77 kelvin is given as the useful figure because this is the boiling point of Nitrogen. Liquid nitrogen is in fairly cheap plentiful supply so if you can get a superconductor that works at that temperature it is useful for commercial applications.
Being malleable and ductile would also add to the practical applications of the superconductor. Malleable and ductile in this description are slightly ambiguous, I assume only metallic compounds can have these qualities but I could be wrong. So replace malleable and ductile with metallic in the post if that is a better description.
Superconductors have all sorts of known useful applications. It is such a weird property that trying to figure out what you can do with them is like a bronze age swordmaker trying to figure out all applications of iron.
This is an in depth description of the superconductivity phenomenon. Figure 12 shows the historical evolution of the maximum superconducting temperature.
If you look at this graph you can see that a metallic superconductor if current trends continue a metallic superconductor would be nearing the temperature of liquid nitrogen. This of course assumes that a metal could superconduct at this temperature.
Using these two graphs and this bet we can have some evidence of what the current trends in these class of superconductors is and also how likely people believe these trends are to continue. From this information we can estimate if actions have an effect on the development of this class of superconductors.
One way to encourage superconductor research would be to offer a prize for new metals that increase the highest temperature of superconductivity. Superconductor research is materials research that is not overly expensive. However it does require a reasonable level of investment. As such any prize for the development of new superconducting materials would need to be considerable. The producer of a metallic superconductor could expect to make significant commercial results from the discovery.
Theoreticians however do not need as much money. They could make a prediction on the properties of metallic superconductors and not have to go through the cost of actually producing the materials.
So if you could give a prize to the most accurate prediction of the future of metallic superconductors this would slightly encourage experimental research into metallic superconductors. It would I believe more strongly affect theoretical examination of the problem.
I believe we should use a form of betting market to incentivise research into superconductors. I will describe how this market would be designed and the pros and cons of the scheme in another post.
If you have any opinions on how to phrase the question so that knowing the answer requires more knowledge in this area to be acquired. How to judge the question reliably and in a trustworthy way is another important question.