Conservation X Labs

 2,692

Microfiber Innovation Challenge

Seeking transformative solutions to address microfiber pollution
stage:
Second round applications due / Second round application review begins
prize:
$650,000
Overview

Challenge Overview

The Microfiber Innovation Challenge is a global competition awarding $650,000 in prizes for transformative solutions to address microfiber pollution. The Challenge is being administered by Conservation X Labs, with funding from The Flotilla Foundation and the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations. We are seeking upstream innovations at or beyond the prototype stage that: 1. Replace textiles formed with plastic microfibers with non-toxic alternatives that biodegrade in natural environments; and/or Prevent plastic microfiber shedding through the development of improved textile manufacturing processes (e.g. weaving, treatments, etc).

The goal of the Challenge is to provide promising innovators with funding and support to help the innovations get to market, become financially sustainable, and scale. Participation in this Challenge offers a number of benefits beyond just the prize pool, including access to a network of experts and leaders in the space; the opportunity to meet and learn from peers working on cutting-edge products; mentorship on business and product development; and recognition and validation from our world-class evaluation panel. 

This competition will be run in three rounds, including a short first round application, a more in-depth second round application for a set of semi-finalists, and a closing pitch competition for up to ten finalists. The Challenge opens on January 27, 2020 and the first round will close on Friday, June 25, 2021 (11:59 PM EDT / GMT -4). 

 

Guidelines

Challenge Guidelines

Evaluation Criteria 

There are many good ideas and innovations out there! However, this competition is specifically designed to support innovations that have an existing prototype and fit within the scope of the two sub-challenges: 

  1. Replace textiles that are sources of plastic microfibers with alternatives designed for non-toxic biodegradation in natural environments.
  2. Develop improved textile manufacturing processes (e.g. weaving, treatments, etc.) to decrease microfiber shedding.

In addition, eligible applications must meet the following minimum criteria. Your application may be disqualified from the competition if it does not meet all of the following criteria: 

  • The application is complete and submitted by the deadline.
  • The application is in English.
  • The innovation described in the application addresses the microfiber pollution problem within the scope of the competition (listed above).
  • The innovation cannot be a pure policy solution.
  • The innovation needs to be beyond the idea stage with a prototype at the time the application is submitted. Innovations must, at a minimum, have a working prototype (typically TRL 4 and above).

Panels of expert reviewers and judges will evaluate and score applications based on the following criteria:

  • Feasibility: the innovation is feasible based on its technological, team, and financial merits.
  • Transformative: the innovation is revolutionary, novel, or questions fundamental assumptions in its approach.
  • Scalability: the innovation has growth potential due to its competitive advantage, demand / customer base, value proposition, and business model.
  • Environmental impact: the innovation will make a significant contribution in advancing conservation efforts and not shift the environmental burden (e.g. land, water, and energy use).

Application Process

First Round Application:Due online Friday, June 25, 2021 (11:59 PM EDT / GMT -4) 

All applicants must fill out and submit their application through the Submittable platform. 

https://conservationxlabs.submittable.com/submit

The due date for the first round application is June 25, 2021, (11:59 PM EDT / GMT -4). The first round application consists of 13 short essay questions and a short demographic questionnaire.

After the June 25th deadline, Conservation X Labs (CXL) will review all applications to ensure that they are eligible. CXL will notify applicants through email of their eligibility for the Challenge by early July, 2021.

All eligible applications will be evaluated by external panels of expert reviewers. We will invite a subset of semifinalists to prepare a second round application based on the recommendations made by the external reviewers’ evaluations. 

CXL will notify semifinalist applicants through email to prepare the second round application in mid-August, 2021.

Second Round Application:

The second round of the application will be open to a subset of invited applicants who make it past the first round of review. This application will be about 2-3 times longer than the first round, and applicants may be asked to provide more details on their business model and demand, including data and evidence of customer / user discovery, and data on the environmental impact of the innovation. In addition, applicants invited to the second round will have the option to participate in a peer feedback round where applicants will have the opportunity to give constructive feedback to each other. 

Applicants may also have the opportunity to upload supporting documents with the second round application. The application questions will be made available later in the Challenge process. 

Second round applications will be evaluated by external panels of expert reviewers. These reviewers will also have access to responses provided on the first round application. 

Ten finalists who make it past the second round will prepare a pitch deck with support from Conservation X Labs and partners. The pitch will be presented to a panel of diverse and distinguished judges. The judges will determine the prize-winners.

Peer Feedback:

Grand Challenge competitions enable us to source and reward the best innovations and build Communities of Practice. To help build a Microfiber Innovation Community of Practice, there will be an opportunity to get Peer Feedback during the second round application process. 

For applicants invited to the second round application:

Applications will be divided into groups. On this basis, peer feedback cohorts will be created. Each peer cohort will consist of representatives of up to four applicant teams.

Each applicant team will select one representative to review three first round applications. This representative may be the lead author or any of the collaborators added to the Submittable application. 

Each team representative will have four weeks to review peer applications and submit written feedback about the application through Submittable (upon receipt of a short prompt). CXL will also help set up a group call so that each team representative can provide verbal feedback to their peers. 

The entire peer feedback process is expected to take approximately four hours to complete.

A team may opt out of receiving/providing peer feedback if they do not feel comfortable sharing their application and/or providing feedback. 

The peer feedback prize 

After a team representative has received feedback from their peers, the representative will score the quality of that feedback on a scale of 1 to 7 (1 = very low quality, 7 = very high quality). If a prize-winning team scored the representative’s feedback with a 5 or above, then the representative’s team will win a $2,500 peer feedback prize.

Why provide and receive feedback?

This is an opportunity to meet other innovators in this space, create a Community of Practice, access additional expertise, and be eligible for a $2,500 peer feedback prize. 

Instructions for peer feedback

Peer feedback should be thoughtful, constructive, and provide helpful insights to improve the application’s quality around the four key criteria (see the ‘Evaluation Criteria’ section). CXL will provide detailed instructions ahead of the process.

Final Pitch Competition:

The ten Finalists will be invited to create a pitch deck and presentation for their innovation. Finalists will deliver their pitches to a final panel of judges in January 2022. There will be a time limit on the length of pitches, and CXL will offer pitch coaching for the finalists. 

Judges will have the opportunity to ask questions of the Finalists to inform their final decisions. 

The Solutions Fair and Awards Ceremony:

In February 2022, CXL will host a Solutions Fair and Awards Ceremony. This event will convene finalists for a networking opportunity and to showcase their innovations in front of potential investors, users, customers, and the Challenge judges. Judges will announce the prize winners during an awards ceremony at the Solutions Fair. This event will occur in-person pending the health and safety of attendees. The Judges will award $500,000 as a first tranche of prize money to a set of winners. 

CXL and partners will assess how innovators performed with the first tranche of funding, based on jointly established metrics, and work alongside our partners to determine which innovators merit additional support. CXL and its partners will use the remaining $150,000 to provide additional support to the best-performing innovators to get their product to market and have impact. 

How to Apply

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Scroll down to “Microfiber Innovation Challenge,’ select “Apply.”

 

 

 

  • Create your Submittable account to begin the application.
  • Note that once you begin your application, you may add collaborators by clicking on ‘Invite Collaborators’ on the right of the page and entering their email address(es). Collaborators can view and edit the application.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Review the eligibility and evaluation criteria, provide responses to the questions, and read the terms and conditions
    • You may save your application if you do not finish it in one visit by pressing ‘Save Draft’ at the bottom of the page:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Submit the application by the deadline

First Round Application Questions

Your responses to these questions in this first section help us at Conservation X Labs (CXL) to understand the impact and the reach of Challenge, and the diversity of applicants. In addition, your responses help us understand what additional services we or our partners might be able to provide to help innovators scale. View the list of partners here: https://conservationxlabs.com/microfiber-coalition

Some of your responses will be shared. Please note that the questions are labeled as such:

# Your responses to these questions will be shared with reviewers if your application makes it to the second round. Reviewers may consider your responses in their evaluation of your innovation.

+ Your responses to these questions will be shared with Challenge partners who have signed an NDA. Some of the partners in this Challenge are interested in supporting the scaling (growth) of innovations. We will not provide partners the full applications created by all of the applicants. Instead, CXL will curate key information from applications and provide partners with summaries of the innovations submitted to the Challenge.

Basic Information About the Author:

  1. What is the title of your innovation? +* Limit: 50 words
  2. Name of lead author. +*
  3. What is the lead author’s affiliated organization? Please list the name of the organization. +*
  4. What is the title of the lead author? +* (e.g. CEO, COO, Professor, Research lead, etc.)
  5. What is the postal address of the lead author? +*
  6. Please select the country where the lead author is based.* (This might differ from the postal address of the lead author.)
  7. Is your solution, or an earlier version of your proposed solution, posted in Conservation X Labs’ Digital Makerspace?
  8. What is the legal structure supporting the innovation described in this application? +*
  9. Briefly explain the types of capital raised to date and the terms (e.g. amount, source, equity, grant, etc.). +*Limit: 150 words
  10. Have you received any awards for this innovation? If so, please list. +*Limit: 100 words
  11. Have you previously attended any accelerators, incubators, or other business-development support programs? If so, which one(s)? +*Limit: 100 words
  12. What was the inspiration for this innovation? Provide a brief explanation. #*Limit: 100 words
  13. What do you hope to get out of this competition? +*Limit: 100 words
  14. What do you hope to get from the partners in this competition? +*Limit: 100 wordsSee the current list of partners here: https://conservationxlabs.com/microfiber-coalition
  15. Briefly, how do you define success for your innovation? #+*Limit: 100 words
  16. Why did you apply to this challenge? #+*Limit: 100 words
  17. What additional non-financial support or market-related changes do you need to get your innovation to market? #+*
  18. Do you have any patents or have any IP that you would like or are in the process of getting patented relevant to this innovation? Does anyone else have rights to your IP? +*Limit: 150 words 

Responses to questions 19 and 20 are optional.

Conservation X Labs is dedicated to diversity, equity, and inclusion in its open innovation programs like Grand Challenges. The information on gender, race and ethnicity is useful to help us at Conservation X Labs evaluate our current program design and improve future programs. For these questions, you may select the option “prefer not to answer.” Your responses will not be provided to Reviewers, Judges, or partners. For these questions, you may enter “prefer not to answer.” Your responses will not be provided to Reviewers, Judges, or partners.

19. Select the gender identity that best applies to the lead author.

20. Select the race / ethnicity that best applies to the lead author. 

Expertise and Team

Conservation X Labs wants to understand the professional backgrounds and expertise of challenge applicants.

21. Is the lead author enrolled as a student at any educational institution at the time of the application deadline?*

22. Is the lead author a subject matter expert?*

22.1. In what field is the lead author a subject matter expert?

22.2 If the lead author is a subject matter expert, how many years of experience do they have in the field?

23. How many years has the lead author been working on this innovation? *

24. Since the lead author started working on this innovation, what percentage of their time has been dedicated to this work?*

25. Please provide a URL for the lead author’s LinkedIn page, if available. +

26. Upload the lead author’s CV.*

Please upload a recent CV or resume for the lead author. This will not be shared with Reviewers or Judges. Conservation X Labs wants to understand the professional backgrounds and expertise of challenge applicants. There is no page limit. Please do not use this space to upload any other documents.

27. List the full names and email addresses for all of the team members working on this innovation with you.*Limit: 500 words

Please include the full names and valid email addresses of team members who are helping you prepare this application and who are considered co-leads. Conservation X Labs may send communications about the status of this application to all of the team members listed here.

Write “not applicable” if you are submitting this application as an individual.

28. Upload a CV for each team member listed in question 27.

This will not be shared with reviewers or judges. Conservation X Labs wants to understand the professional backgrounds and expertise of challenge applicants. There is no page limit. Please do not use this space to upload any other documents. 

Responses to question 29 are optional.

For these questions, you may select the option “prefer not to answer.” Your responses will not be provided to Reviewers, Judges, or partners. This table allows for up to ten entries for team members.

29. Include demographic information and expertise for each team member listed in question 27.

  • Name (first, last)
  • Gender identity
  • Country where they maintain residency
  • Race / ethnicity
  • Currently a student? (yes or no)
  • Is the team member a subject matter expert (e.g. on materials engineering, fashion, etc.)? (yes or no)
  • How many years has the team member been working on this innovation? (Enter the number of years)
  • Please provide a URL for the team member’s LinkedIn page, if available

30. Motivation for applying to the Challenge

Your rankings for the following statements (a - j) will not be shared with reviewers, judges, or partners.

Rank each of the following on a scale of 1 to 7 indicating the importance of these statements in your decision to apply to this Challenge. (1 = not at all important, 4 = neutral, 7 = extremely important)

a. Ability to create impact and social good in the world.*

b. Networking - The Challenge gives us an opportunity to meet new potential collaborators, peers, or partners.*

c. Opportunity to enter a new market.*

d. Visibility for our innovation.*

e. Impetus to further develop our innovation.*

f. Feedback and/or testing of our innovation.*

g. Access to potential customers, users, or clients.* 

h. Access to the partners in the Challenge.*View the list of partners here: https://conservationxlabs.com/microfiber-coalition

i. Opportunity to refine the value proposition and business model of our innovation.*

j. The prize money.* 

Section Two: Round One Application - Essay Questions

Please respond to all of the questions in this section to the best of your ability. Reviewers and Judges will evaluate your round one application based on your responses in this section. 

It is best to be honest and transparent in your responses to the essay questions. If you do not have data or examples to back up your claims in your responses, then include in your responses an explanation of your plans to obtain data and how that data will be used to inform the development of your innovation and business model.

Criteria categories:

  • Feasibility: the innovation is feasible based on its technological, team, and financial merits.
  • Transformative: the innovation is revolutionary, novel, or questions fundamental assumptions in its approach.
  • Scalability: the innovation has growth potential due to its competitive advantage, demand / customer base, value proposition, and business model.
  • Environmental impact: the innovation will make a significant contribution in advancing conservation efforts and not shift the environmental burden (e.g. land, water, and energy use).

The questions are marked with the number of points that evaluators will assign. Most responses will receive a score on a scale of 0 to 5.

012345
Does not meet the criteriaMeets few of the criteriaMeets some of thecriteriaMeets most of the criteriaMeets all of the criteriaExceeds the criteria 

1. Introduce your innovation in a Tweet.*

  • Limit: 280 characters
  • Criterion: Succinctly describes the innovation.
  • 5 points maximum.

2. Describe how your innovation works in more detail.*

  • Limit: 150 words
  • Criterion: Clearly describes how the innovation works.
  • 5 points maximum.

3. What problem does your innovation solve, and how does it solve this problem? Be specific.*

  • Limit: 250 words
  • Criterion: Clearly describes the problem and how the innovation solves the problem. The innovation has the potential to be transformative, for example, the innovation is revolutionary, elegant, novel, or questions fundamental assumptions in its approach.
  • Criteria category: Transformative
  • 5 points maximum.

4. Do you have a prototype?* (yes or no)

  • Criterion: The innovation must be at a stage beyond a theory or idea.
  • Binary score: “No” = 0 points, “Yes” = 5 points

5. Describe the stage of your innovation.*

  • Limit: 100 words
  • 5 points maximum.

6. What is the Technology Readiness Level (TRL) of your innovation?*

7. Upload a photo that shows proof of the existence of the innovation.*

  • Points: Reviewers will compare your response to question 6 (TRL) and the image provided here in question 7 to determine a score.
  • 5 points maximum.

8. Demonstrate the feasibility of your innovation. Provide evidence that your team has tested or demonstrated your innovation (e.g. how, when, and where the innovation was tested or demonstrated). Have you tested it in the lab and/or in natural environments?*

  • Limit: 250 words
  • Criterion: The innovation is technologically feasible.
  • Criteria category: Feasibility
  • 5 points maximum.

9. Describe how your team has the expertise and capacity to develop and commercialize your innovation. Describe what gaps remain on your team.*

  • Limit: 250 words
  • Criterion: It is feasible for this team to develop and commercialize the innovation. The team can make an honest assessment of what capacity is needed to commercialize.
  • Criteria category: Feasibility
  • 5 points maximum.

10. What tangible startup resources do you need (e.g. capital, equipment, facilities, funding) to scale your innovation?*

  • Limit: 100 words
  • Criterion: The innovation is financially feasible. The team can make an honest assessment of their needs for growth.
  • Criteria category: Feasibility
  • 5 points maximum.

11. Who are your major competitors, and who or what kinds of companies might become your competitors? Briefly explain why you are different; in other words, what is your competitive advantage?*

  • Limit: 100 words
  • Criterion: Demonstrates an understanding of the competitive landscape and the competitive advantage of the innovation.
  • Criteria category: Scalability
  • 5 points maximum.

12. Who are your customers? Why would they pay for your innovation?*

  • Limit: 100 words
  • Criterion: Clearly describes the customers and value proposition of the innovation.
  • Criteria category: Scalability
  • 5 points maximum.

13. Briefly describe your business model. Include in your response - what is the end product of your innovation and through what channels will you reach your customers?*

  • Limit: 250 words
  • Criterion: The basics of the business model make sense for commercialization and growth.
  • Criteria category: Scalability
  • 5 points maximum.

14. Please outline what is known about the life cycle of your innovation based on your current stage of development: from raw material sourcing, the methods and treatments used to create the product, to how and where the product is manufactured and distributed, to the product’s end-of-life (EOL).*

  • Limit: 500 words
  • Criterion: Considers the environmental impact of the full lifecycle in the design of the innovation, from sourcing to end-of-life of the innovation.
  • Criteria category: Environmental Impact
  • 5 points maximum.

15. How does the design of your innovation consider the end-of-life? What steps have you taken to design for non-toxic biodegradation in natural environments (e.g. soil, oceans)? Describe the testing or data you already have, if available.*

  • Limit: 250 words
  • Criterion: Considers the non-toxic biodegradation of the innovation.
  • Criteria category: Environmental Impact
  • 5 points maximum.

16. What is the overall environmental and social impact of your innovation? Identify the positive impacts, as well as how you will mitigate for unintended consequences.*

  • Limit: 250 words
  • Criterion: Awareness of the positive impacts and unintended consequences of the innovation. Makes a convincing case for a net-positive impact.
  • Criteria category: Environmental Impact
  • 5 points maximum.

17. If your team is invited to submit a second round application, would you like to participate in the challenge’s peer feedback program?

  • Peer feedback groups representing up to four applicant teams will share written and verbal feedback with one another on first-round applications and become eligible for a $2,500 peer feedback prize. For further details please refer to the peer feedback section of the Challenge Handbook.

Partner Organizations 

Flotilla Foundation (funding partner) flotillafoundation.org

Arthur Vining Davis Foundations (funding partner) avdf.org

Fashion for Good fashionforgood.com

The Microfibre Consortium microfibreconsortium.com

Under Armour underarmour.com

Queen of Raw queenofraw.com

Material Innovation Initiative materialinnovation.org

Oceanic Global oceanic.global

The Ocean Foundation oceanfdn.org

Think Beyond Plastic Foundation thinkbeyondplastic.com

The Biomimicry Institute biomimicry.org

Canopy canopyplanet.org

Ocean Wise ocean.org

Greenport Harbor Brewing Company greenportharborbrewing.com

Bolt Threads boltthreads.com

Finisterre — finisterre.com

Advisors

Our advisors provide technical expertise and guidance on the challenge design, evaluation, and amplification. The Microfiber Innovation Challenge advisors include James Rogers, Krystle Moody-Wood, Carolynn Box, and Sylvanie Meignié. See our Microfiber Coalition for challenge advisor biographies. 

Judges and Reviewers

Conservation X Labs recruits and invites reviewers and judges based on recommendations from our partners and within our networks. Our panels of reviewers and judges for this competition will be experts in a variety of relevant fields, including (but not limited to) the clothing and fashion industry, textile and materials science, biotechnology, green chemistry, innovation, business development, environmental (e.g. marine and freshwater) conservation, and plastic pollution.

CXL will publicly post the names of the final round of Judges. Judges and Reviewers will sign non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) to protect the applicants in this competition. They will also be asked to declare any known Conflicts of Interest (COI). See our COI policy.

FAQs

Please refer to our Challenge website’s ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ section:

https://conservationxlabs.com/microfiber-faq

Conflict of Interest Policy 

See the Microfiber Innovation Challenge website for our Conflict of Interest (COI) policy.

http://conservationxlabs.com/s/Conflict-of-Interest-Policy-Microfiber-Challenge.pdf

For more information, contact us at: 

microfibers@conservationxlabs.org 

www.conservationxlabs.com/microfibers

 

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