X PRIZE Foundation Announces Wendy Schmidt Oil Cleanup X CHALLENGE

The X PRIZE Foundation launched its sixth major incentive competition, the $1.4 Million Wendy Schmidt Oil Cleanup X CHALLENGE.

The new prize was announced in Washington, DC by X PRIZE Chairman Peter H. Diamandis together with Wendy Schmidt, who personally funded the $1.4 million prize purse. Wendy Schmidt is president of The Schmidt Family Foundation, Founder of the Foundation’s 11th Hour Project and Climate Central, as well as Co-founder, with her husband Eric (CEO of Google), of the Schmidt Marine Science Research Institute.

Other speakers included Philippe Cousteau, son of Jan and Philippe Cousteau Sr., and grandson of Captain Jacques-Yves Cousteau and co-founder and CEO of EarthEcho International; and Dr. Dave Gallo, Ph.D., Director of Special Projects at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute.

The goal of the Wendy Schmidt Oil Cleanup X CHALLENGE is to inspire entrepreneurs, engineers, and scientists worldwide to develop innovative, rapidly deployable, and highly efficient methods of capturing crude oil from the ocean surface. In making the announcement, the X PRIZE Foundation hopes to attract philanthropic and venture capital to support development of this capability and provide a global platform where new technologies can be competed head-to-head, and the best approaches demonstrated, to prepare for future catastrophes.

The Wendy Schmidt Oil Cleanup X CHALLENGE has two phases:

Phase I. From August 2010 – April 2011, teams from around the world are invited to register for this competition, and to submit their approach to clean up oil slicks created by spills or leaks from ships or tankers (e.g. Exxon Valdez), land drainage, waste disposal, or oil platform spill (e.g. Deepwater Horizon). An expert panel of judges from industry and academia will evaluate all of the proposals along the following criteria:

  • Technical approach and commercialization plan
  • No negative environmental impact
  • Scalability of and ability to deploy technology; cost and human labor of implementation
  • Improvement of technology over today’s baseline booms and skimmers

Phase II. The judges will select up to 10 of the top teams to demonstrate their ability to efficiently and rapidly clean up oil on the ocean surface in a head-to-head competition. These proofs of capability, which will determine the winner, will take place at the National Oil Spill Response Research & Renewable Energy Test Facility (OHSMETT) in New Jersey. The top team that demonstrates the ability to recover oil on the sea-water surface at the highest oil recovery rate (ORR) and recovery efficiency (RE) will win the $1 million Grand Purse. Second place will win $300,000 and third place will win $100,000 in purses.


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