The X PRIZE Foundation has detailed the plans for a new competition to develop technology to clean up crude oil, on the heels of the environmental disaster caused by BP's oil spill in the Gulf. The foundation said Thursday that it is launching a new, $1.4M award--the Wendy Schmidt Oil Cleanup X Challenge--which will award the prize to the top team which creates technology to efficiently and rapidly clean up oil on the ocean surface. The award is being personally funded by Wendy Schmidt, the president of The Schmidt Family Foundation. The X PRIZE is the latest created by the foundation, which is best known for its success in launching the private spaceflight industry with the Ansari X Prize.
In the newest competition, teams will be invited to register for the competition and submit their approach to clean up oil spills and leaks from ships or tankers, land drainage, waste disposal, or oil platform spill between August 2010 and April 2011. After that, an expert panel will evaluate the proposal and select the ten top teams. Those teams will compete in a head-to-head competition on ability to clean up oil on the ocean's service, at the National Oil Spill Response Research & Renewable Energy Test Facility (OHSMETT) in New Jersey. The foundation said the prize purse will be split between a $1M grand prize, 300,000 second prize, and $100,000 for the third prize team.
The X Prize's approach--patterned after a number of successful historical prize competitions to spur technology development and invention--dangles a prize to spur independent teams to invest their own efforts and dollars to win the competition, resulting in both a wider number of approaches and possible technology inventions, as well as more investment in areas of interest to the foundation.