American-Made Challenges

Powering the Blue Economy™: Ocean Observing Prize

The Powering the Blue Economy™: Ocean Observing Prize seeks innovators to integrate marine renewable energy with ocean observation platforms, ultimately revolutionizing our capability to collect the data needed to understand, map, and monitor the ocean.

This joint prize between the Water Power Technologies Office (WPTO) at the U.S. Department of Energy and the Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS®) program at the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) seeks to address the 80% of the ocean that remains unexplored and to fill the data gaps that make it difficult for industry to make strategic siting, development, and management decisions and realize the full potential of the Blue Economy. The Ocean Observing Prize includes a series of competitions over several years to encourage rapid innovation in the fields of marine energy and ocean observations to develop solutions that meet the needs of ocean researchers, agencies, explorers, and other end-users. Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory are supporting DOE and NOAA on the development and administration of the prize.


The Ocean Observing Prize is a series of competitions with cash awards to incentivize accelerated advancement of ideas from concept to demonstration. The first competition, the DISCOVER Competition, is now open and will solicit novel concepts that integrate ocean observing technologies with marine energy systems to address end-user needs across five broad themes: (1) Unmanned Vehicles; (2) Communications and Underwater Navigation; (3) Extreme Environments; (4) Buoys, Floats, and Tags; and (5) Blue Sea Ideas (i.e. other). Following the DISCOVER Competition will be the DEVELOP Competition which will focus on a single theme and challenge contestants to develop their ideas into a functioning prototype. Together, the DISCOVER and DEVELOP Competitions will award up to $3 million in cash prizes as well as other in-kind awards.

The Ocean Observing Prize is repeatable, and it is expected that future iterations of the DISCOVER and DEVELOP Competitions may be run again in the future to cover other themes. Through this competition, innovators will be able to tap into DOE and NOAA’s network of National Laboratories, energy incubators, subject matter experts, and other resources across the nation, building strong partnerships between marine energy and ocean observation experts.

The American-Made Challenges Prize platform, administered by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, brings together America’s world-class research base with its unparalleled entrepreneurial support system — consisting of pioneering university teams, dozens of energy incubators, and 16 National Laboratories— to create a sweeping portfolio of innovations primed for private investment and commercial scale-up.


DISCOVER Competition


The DISCOVER Competition is now open and offers up to $125,000 in cash awards to high-scoring submissions. Up to eleven awards will be made, they include:

  • Explorer Prizes: The Explorer Prizes are awarded to the top-ranked submissions across all themes. Up to ten Explorer Prizes will be awarded at up to $10,000 each. Some themes may have multiple winners, or none at all.
  • Nautilus Grand Prize: The Nautilus Grand Prize winner will be awarded to the single highest-scoring submission and receive a $25,000 award.

Important Dates


  • DISCOVER Stage Open: November 14, 2019
  • DISCOVER Submission Close: February 12, 2020
  • Judging and Review Complete: Anticipated March 5, 2020
  • DISCOVER Stage Winner Notification: Anticipated March 20, 2020
  • DISCOVER Stage Winner Announcement and Awards: Anticipated March 26, 2020

All dates are subject to change including contest openings, deadlines, and announcements. Final dates for the opening of the DESIGN and BUILD Stages will be posted here and on the HeroX site.

Sign up for updates on our HeroX challenge page.


Who can participate?


All are welcome and encouraged to join the American-Made Challenge Network and be a part of the ground-breaking change that will accelerate innovation in ocean observing and marine renewable energy technologies.


Solutions that help shape the future

Photo by NOAA on Unsplash

Are you a thinker, entrepreneur, facility or potential partner? Anyone with an innovative idea can help promote transformation by participating in the American-Made Challenges. Reach out to the organizers to find out how you can get involved.


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