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.

BUILD Contest Submission Open
$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 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 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 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 novel themes not listed). The second competition, the DEVELOP Competition, now ongoing, is centered on a single theme, Buoys and Autonomous Systems, with a focus on hurricane monitoring. The DEVELOP Competition challenges 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 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 observation systems.
  • 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.

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 23

Challenge Updates

DESIGN Contest Winner Announcement

March 24, 2021, 7:19 p.m. PDT by Libby Arnold

Hello innovators,

The Ocean Observing Prize team is hard at work reviewing your applications for the DESIGN Contest, and we are looking forward to announcing the winners in mid-April. Until then, stay up-to-date with our major announcements on the Water Power Technologies Office's Water Wire newsletter and the American-Made Challenges Twitter.

As always reach out with any questions, and we can’t wait to celebrate your accomplishments as we move into the BUILD Contest. Stay tuned!

-The Ocean Observing Prize Team

Water Power Technologies Office Stakeholder Webinar

Feb. 23, 2021, 9 a.m. PST by Jenny Wiegele

Hi Innovators, 

Join the Department of Energy’s Water Power Technologies Office on March 1, from 3:30–5:00 p.m. ET, for the semiannual stakeholder webinar, where staff will discuss some of the most pressing changes affecting water power R&D in 2021. Led by Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Renewable Power and WPTO Director Alejandro Moreno, the webinar will feature program managers and technical leads from across WPTO. Program representatives will provide an update on the administration transition and FY21 budget, highlight recent announcements and publications, share project updates including prize milestones and awards, and discuss upcoming priorities. The presentation will close with Q&A.

This webinar is one of WPTO’s many efforts to improve transparency and engagement with stakeholders in the hydropower and marine energy industries. Register for the webinar and email questions ahead of time .

- The Ocean Observing Prize Team

Ocean Observing Prize Deadline: Extenuating Circumstances

Feb. 19, 2021, 11:34 a.m. PST by Jenny Wiegele

Ocean Observing Prize Innovators, 

Thank you all for your hard work in preparing your submissions for the DEVELOP Competition: DESIGN Contest. 

We have, however, received a few messages from some teams experiencing power outages and challenges accessing the internet in Texas. If your team is experiencing technical or access difficulties due to extreme weather in your area that inhibited your prize submission, please reach out to us at 

Let us know if you have any questions. 

- The Prize Administration Team 

Share your testing needs with PacWave and WPTO

Feb. 16, 2021, 11:26 a.m. PST by Jenny Wiegele

Ocean Observing Community, 

As you prepare your final submissions today, we wanted to pass on an opportunity to share your testing needs. 

The development of the PacWave open ocean wave energy test facility is proceeding rapidly and the South test site is scheduled to be operational in the Spring of 2023. 

To help prepare for the first round of testing and demonstration projects, the PacWave and PMEC teams have released an RFI to solicit information from the wave energy converter R&D community, the developers of related blue economy technologies, and other stakeholders. The information received will help the PacWave team understand how the facility can most effectively be used to meet the testing needs of the WEC community and to ensure testing opportunities are aligned with industry and stakeholder needs. We strongly encourage all wave energy converter technology stakeholders to respond to the RFI. 

The submission deadline is February 24, 2021, so get your submissions in soon!

- Ocean Observing Prize Team

The Modified Rules Document and Accompanying Delay Assessment are Now Available

Jan. 13, 2021, 9:37 a.m. PST by Libby Arnold

Please be advised that the DEVELOP Competition: Official Rules Document has been formally modified to include a new delay assessment submission. We ask that all potential contestants provide feedback on current and anticipated delays from COVID-19 in the DESIGN Contest Delay Assessment template, available under the Ocean Observing Prize HeroX Resources tab. Competition organizers will use your responses to guide the development of the prize schedule. Your answers will not be scored or considered in the review of your submission, but do note; this is a required element of your full submission package.

If there are still any outstanding questions on the DEVELOP Competition rules, please reach out to us on the forum.

- The Ocean Observing Prize Team

Forum 35
Teams 540