XPRIZE Foundation Reveals Competitions Geared Toward Ocean Health
October 23, 2013

XPRIZE Foundation Reveals Competitions Geared Toward Ocean Health

Brett Smith for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

Known for spurring innovations in the commercial space industry, the XPRIZE Foundation has announced that it will launch a new series of competitions for innovations in ocean conservation technology.

“As a result of human activity, the ocean is overfished, polluted, and exploited; a problem because it supports all life on Earth,” the Foundation said in a statement. “As governments around the world steadily reduce research and investment geared toward addressing ocean health, XPRIZE steps in to fill the void.”

Collectively dubbed The Ocean Initiative, the new XPRIZE challenges will be designed with help from the general public. According to suggestions from the Foundation, the challenges might focus on dealing with marine dead zones, overfishing, or the great Pacific garbage patch, a vast stretch of central Pacific Ocean marked by a huge quantity of plastic debris.

While the initiative marks the first time the XPRIZE has decided to hone a campaign in on a specific research area, a past prize of $1.4 million was awarded to the creation of a more efficient oil spill clean-up device. In September 2013, XPRIZE launched the $2 million Wendy Schmidt Ocean Health XPRIZE, to push innovation surrounding the development of accurate and affordable ocean pH sensors, invaluable tools that could be used in the battle against ocean acidification.

"Prizes in the past have been serendipitous – whatever comes along," Wendy Schmidt, who is sponsoring the prizes, and is co-founder of the Schmidt Ocean Institute, told Suzanne Goldenberg of The Guardian. "Getting this much focus on the inner space is definitely an important thing, I think, for this generation."

According to Peter Diamandis, the chairman of the XPRIZE foundation, an appeal to the public, as well as experts, would help identify the most urgent challenges to ocean health.

"There is not very much money being spent on ocean research, and the impact on humanity is so large. This might be a great place for crowd sourcing to have an impact," Diamandis said. “At XPRIZE, we believe great ideas can come from anywhere. Teams from around the world, from all walks of life, compete in our competitions.”

“We realize that often the complexities of Grand Challenges require multiple, interacting solutions,“ Schmidt added. “By leveraging a suite of prizes all geared towards a grand ocean vision, we can truly achieve impact, and I am thrilled to partner with XPRIZE to help make this possible.”

In an interview with National Geographic's Brian Clark Howard, Paul Bunje, senior director for oceans at XPRIZE, said the foundation was looking for individuals from the general public to join the effort through its Ocean Ambassador program.

“We want Ocean Ambassadors who will really commit and join us in the ideation process,” Bunje said. “It’s more involved than just tossing up a quick idea on Facebook, we want people who are really going to put some work into this.

“We’re looking for thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands,” he added. “I’d be over the moon if we had 10,000 people who were working a few hours a month on this.”