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 awards notifications (anticipated)
$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.



Challenge Updates

Updated BUILD Contest Rules Document

July 16, 2021, 8:33 a.m. PDT by Amanda Morton

Attention Innovators,

Please be advised that the Ocean Observing Prize Official BUILD Rules Document has been updated to provide more clarity around the DPPMs, extend the deadline to request a second DPPM, and remove the field-of-view constraints for the DPPM.  Additionally, we've updated the DPPM Consultations resource to also reflect these slight modifications to the rules and include questions from the second round of DPPM Consultations.

- The Ocean Observing Prize Team

Rules Update, DPPM Clarifications, and more...

June 10, 2021, 3:07 p.m. PDT by Amanda Morton

Attention Innovators,

Please be advised that the official Ocean Observing Prize Official BUILD Rules Document has been updated to remove the downward-facing constraint of the DPPM in Appendix E and provide more clarity.  The CAD drawings have been slightly modified to account for these revisions. 

We've uploaded a new version of the Q&A Responses from the May 10, 2021 webinar. This document now holds all questions asked live during the webinar as well as a few submitted by email afterwards.

Additionally, we've added a resource which answers questions that arose from the DPPM Consultations.

Lastly, please remember to check the FAQ for responses to commonly asked questions.

- The Ocean Observing Prize Team

Updated BUILD Contest Rules Document

May 21, 2021, 2:02 p.m. PDT by Amanda Morton

Attention Innovators,

Please be advised that the official Ocean Observing Prize Rules Document has been modified to update the DPPM mounting points and measurements so that they now match the CAD file. Please review these changes, now available in the updated  BUILD rules document

- The Ocean Observing Prize Team

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