American-Made Challenges

Powering the Blue Economy™: Ocean Observing Prize

The Powering the Blue Economy™: Ocean Observing Prize challenges innovators to integrate marine renewable energy with ocean observation platforms, ultimately revolutionizing our ability 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 (DOE) and NOAA’s Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS®) Office seeks to develop new technologies that can help fill the data gaps making it difficult to realize the full potential of the Blue Economy. The Ocean Observing Prize includes a series of competitions, with millions of dollars in awards, to encourage rapid innovation in the fields of marine energy and ocean observations. The prize began with the DISCOVER Competition and innovators are now competing in the DEVELOP Competition. The Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) are supporting DOE and NOAA in 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, closed on February 12, 2020. Competitors submitted 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 novel themes not listed).

Following the DISCOVER Competition, the DEVELOP Competition focuses on a single theme, hurricane monitoring, and challenges contestants to develop their ideas into a functioning prototype through three contests: DESIGN, BUILD, and SPLASH. Together, the DISCOVER and DEVELOP Competitions will award up to $3 million in cash and other in-kind awards.

The Ocean Observing Prize is repeatable, and it is expected that future iterations may focus on other themes. Through this competition, innovators will be able to tap into DOE and NOAA’s network of National Laboratories, energy incubators and accelerators, subject matter experts, and other resources across the nation to build novel technologies that collect critical ocean data.

The American-Made Challenges Prize platform, administered by NREL, brings together a world-class research base with an 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.


DEVELOP Competition


The second contest in the DEVELOP Competition, BUILD, is underway.


Important Dates


  • Submission Open: April 19, 2021
  • Tank Testing: Anticipated January-February 2022
  • Winner Announcement and Awards: Anticipated February 2022

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

Sign up for updates on our HeroX challenge page.


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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

Underwater graphic of an autonomous underwater vehicle (UAV).

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.


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