American-Made Challenges


Ocean Observing Prize

Integrate marine renewable energy with ocean observation platforms, to revolutionize data collection needed to understand and map the ocean.
$3 million in total prizes

Challenge Overview

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 and the Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS®) Office at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) 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, that began with the DISCOVER Competition and is followed by the DEVELOP Competition. The 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 consists of two competitions that are designed to incentivize accelerated innovation in marine energy and ocean observations. The first competition, the DISCOVER Competition, which is now closed, solicited 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). The second competition, the DEVELOP Competition, will focus on a single theme, Buoys and Autonomous Systems, with a focus on hurricane monitoring and challenge contestants to develop their ideas into a functioning prototype through three contests: the DESIGN Contest, BUILD Contest, and SPLASH Contest.





Together, the DISCOVER and DEVELOP Competitions will award up to $3 million in cash prizes, as well as other in-kind awards such as access to facilities, specialized equipment, and subject matter experts.



The purpose of this prize is to:

  • Enable collection of valuable new data. Proposed innovations should increase the spatial coverage, temporal resolution, and/or types of ocean and atmospheric variables that can be observed, collected, processed, and transmitted leading to improved understanding, monitoring, and management of the ocean.
  • Generate sufficient power from co-located marine resources. Solutions must be able to generate sufficient power to meet the energy needs of end users from the ocean observing community and prove the viability of marine energy to power ocean observations.
  • Accelerate commercialization of marine energy systems. Traditional development timelines of marine energy devices for the electrical grid can take many years to design, build, and test. By working at smaller scales and addressing ocean observing system energy needs, marine energy may find a faster path to commercialization.
  • Grow a diverse community of innovators. This prize will help bring new innovators into the marine energy and ocean observing space. It will also help form new partnerships and collaborations between industry, academia, and government to create innovative ocean observing technologies powered by marine energy.

For more information on the prize and the rules, please review the official Rules Document for instructions on the application process rules for competing.



Challenge Guidelines

Who can participate?

Please review the official Rules Document for the application process and instructions for competing.

If you want to subscribe to updates on the prize or have any questions, you may use the contact feature on the HeroX platform, or message us directly.

If you’re not interested in competing but want to help with the Prize in other ways, please feel free to contact us.


Updates 16

Challenge Updates

Outstanding Webinar Questions

Nov. 12, 2020, 12:42 p.m. PST by Jenny Wiegele

Hi teams, 

Thank you all for joining the webinar this week. We will be sharing a link to the recording soon for anyone who was unable to attend. 

We did receive a few questions after the webinar had concluded, so we have provided our responses for the two questions that went unanswered below. Let us know if you need any further clarification, and good luck developing your concepts!


  1. Are we required to use WEC-Sim for our simulation?
    1. No. WEC-Sim is not a requirement, but just an option available to the competitors to complete the simulation. 
  2. Who would be the earliest adopter of our new technologies?
    1. This competition was designed around the specific design needs of potential customers at NOAA who study hurricane monitoring. We cannot guarantee acquisition of any technologies, but a self-charging AUV would have applications for a variety of end-users. We encourage you to think about how the technology could be used ranging anywhere from the government to the private sector. 

Happening today! Ocean Observing: DEVELOP Competition Applicant Webinar, Part 2

Nov. 10, 2020, 4:30 a.m. PST by Libby Arnold

Hello innovators,

Don’t forget to tune in this morning, Nov. 10, at 9:30 a.m. MT for the Ocean Observing: DEVELOP Competition Applicant Webinar, Part 2.

This is your opportunity to learn about some of the resources available to competitors, including WEC-Sim, MHKit, and the Blue Power Connectors. Register here, and get your questions answered.

-The Ocean Observing Prize Team

HeroX Resources Now Available

Oct. 29, 2020, 9:43 a.m. PDT by Libby Arnold

Ocean Observing Prize Innovators,

Thank you for attending part one of the DEVELOP Competition Applicant Webinar. We are pleased to inform you that the technical issues with the HeroX Resources tab have been resolved. Please take a moment to review the available DESIGN Contest templates, DEVELOP Competition: Eligibility Waiver, and the DEVELOP Competition Official Rules document. 

The link to today’s webinar recording will be posted to HeroX within the next few weeks. And we hope you can join us on Tuesday, November 10 at 9:30 a.m. MT for part two of the DEVELOP Competition Applicant Webinar. 

As always, you can post questions in the HeroX Forum, where someone will respond to you. This way, others who may have the same question will be able to see it. You can also message us directly at or .

NOAA Central Library Ocean Observing Prize: Opening the DEVELOP Competition Webinar Recording Available

Oct. 26, 2020, 9 a.m. PDT by Libby Arnold

Hi Innovators, 

In case you missed the NOAA Central Library Ocean Observing Prize: Opening the DEVELOP Competition webinar, the recording is now available.

EERE experts gave an overview of the Powering the Blue Economy initiative, reviewed the DEVELOP Competition rules, and explored use cases for marine energy-powered ocean observing devices and functional requirements.

And don't forget to tune in for the two-part applicant webinar series and hear directly from organizers:

Register to participate, and as always, reach out to us on the forum with any questions. Good luck!

-The Ocean Observing Prize Team

The DEVELOP Competition and DESIGN Contest are Now Open! Register for the Upcoming Webinars

Oct. 22, 2020, 6 a.m. PDT by Libby Arnold

Hello Innovators,

Good news! The DEVELOP Competition and DESIGN Contest are now open! You can find the official rules document under the HeroX Resources tab.   

Tune in for the two-part applicant webinar series and hear directly from organizers:

Register to participate, and as always, email us at with questions or concerns.

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