Since 1995, XPrize has been promoting science and technology by setting “Grand Challenges” with cash incentive prizes. On Monday, the organization announced the launch of three new competitions by 2020 as part of its XPrize Ocean Initiative, which is aimed at improving the health and understanding of the world’s oceans.
According to XPrize, the oceans are in deep crisis. They are overfished, polluted, and rising atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide are causing ocean acidification. Worse, current pH sensor technology needed to monitor this are too expensive, imprecise, and unstable. In addition, government cutbacks are hampering efforts to meet these challenges.
The XPrize Ocean Initiative is intended to fill the gap in ocean research left by national governments, and a major part of this is the US$2 million Wendy Schmidt Ocean Health XPrize to promote the creation of a new generation of improved, more economical pH sensors for oceanographic work. The ultimate goal is to produce pH sensors that are cheaper, more precise, and capable of operating at all ocean depths.
The Wendy Schmidt Ocean Health XPrize is actually two related competitions with two cash purses each. The US$2 million pot is split between the two contests with US$750,000 for each First Place winner, and US$250,000 for the Second Place winners.
The first competition is the Accuracy award, where competitors strive to create the “most accurate, stable and precise pH sensors.” The second is the Affordability award for producing the “least expensive, easy-to-use, accurate, stable, and precise pH sensors.”
“We realize that often the complexities of Grand Challenges require multiple, interacting solutions,“ says Wendy Schmidt, president of the Schmidt Family Foundation and co-founder of the Schmidt Ocean Institute. “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.”
This competition follows in the success of $1.4 million Wendy Schmidt Oil Cleanup XChallenge, which was awarded in 2011 in the wake of the Deep Ocean Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, and resulted in the development of oil clean up technology capable of operating four times faster than previous methods.
XPrize hopes that the impact of the competition will go beyond new sensing technologies. It also aims to promote ocean research, as well as encourage development of new technology for handling data, information, and forecasting, and to inspire public participation and support.
As part of the latter goal, XPrize has launched its Ocean Ambassador program, which allows public participants to see the XPrize process from start to finish, and as a way to crowdsource the Grand Challenges of the next three ocean XPrize competitions.
“At XPRIZE, we believe great ideas can come from anywhere. Teams from around the world, from all walks of life, compete in our competitions,” says Dr Peter H Diamandis, chairman and CEO of XPrize. “We know that crowdsourcing has enormous potential, so we are inviting the public to help us hone in on the Grand Challenges facing our oceans. Whether it’s overfishing, pollution, plastics, or the myriad of other challenges, hearing directly from concerned and motivated individuals will yield new and unexpected solutions.”
The video below outlines the XPrize Ocean Initiative.