Want $10 Million? X Prize Foundation Announces Prize for Gulf Oil Spill Solution

By Leon Kaye |

While politicians in Washington, DC and beyond cast blame for who is responsible for the Deepwater Horizon disaster, government agencies and businesses are scrambling and suggesting novel ideas for cleaning up the Gulf of Mexico.  Hair stylists have sent boxes of human hair to the Gulf, with suspect results—and with the tar balls spreading, there are not enough heads to shave to make a difference.  Another low-tech idea is hay, which a couple Florida businessmen suggested.  Bacteria is another option that scientists have offered.  Whether or not these ideas are practical or not really does not matter:  because unfortunately, BP has dismissed or ignored anything suggested to the oil giant.

Now the X Prize Foundation, a philanthropic organization that is dedicated to creating prizes rewarding technical innovation, has thrown its hat into the ring.  Yesterday, Francis Beland, Vice President of Prize Development at X Prize, announced a bonus for finding an effective way of cleaning up the spill:  US$10 million.

Beland announced the bounty at the TedXOilSpill conference in Washington, DC on Monday.  Led by leaders in academia, business, and NGOs, TedXOilSpill has already succeeded in documenting the growing catastrophe in the Gulf.  Photographers and videographers have documented the devastating environmental impacts and most significantly, BP officials who have interfered with the media and organizations who wish to help out in the region.

X Prize already has a legacy for sparking innovation in DNA sequencing technology, space exploration, and fuel-efficient automobiles.  The idea behind the competitions is that innovation will tap creativity—rather than waiting to give a prize based on pass accomplishments.  Details are not yet available, but odds are that start-ups of all industries have started to knock on the foundation’s doors.

It’s a tall order for X Prize, considering BP’s refusal to open itself up to any help.  When InnoCentive launched a challenge just 10 days after the Deepwater Horizon oil well began, the response was the quickest the Massachusetts-based company had ever experienced—and InnoCentive offered no cash incentive.  BP’s reply?  Such an offer was “too complex and burdensome to add to already overstretched workdays.”

For the moment, you can send suggestions to Beland by email.  After 70 day so finger pointing, ruined industries, crude comments, and an ill-timed yacht race, no end appears in site.  Hopefully BP’s executives will become exhausted from the public outcry and their firm’s diminished value and open up to X Prize and InnoCentive.



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