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.
DEVELOP Competition Announced
$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®) program at the National Oceanographic 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.


Updates 10

Challenge Updates

Request for Feedback through July 10 on the DEVELOP Rules Workshop Summary

June 16, 2020, 4:16 a.m. PDT by Tessa Greco

The Ocean Observing Prize DEVELOP Competition will release a Final Rules Document that will provide participants with instructions and rules to participate in the DEVELOP Competition of the Ocean Observing Prize. Initial technical specifications and key questions were drafted by the prize team and shared with attendees during the DEVELOP Rules Workshop on May 27 and 28, 2020. This document is a compilation of questions and notes from the Workshop which are posted on the Ocean Observing Prize HeroX website to solicit public comment and feedback. DOE is collecting feedback on anything in the Rules Workshop Notes through July 10, 2020. Submissions should be sent to with the subject "Ocean Observing Prize Rules Workshop". Please reference the relevant line numbers from the DEVELOP Rules Workshop Summary and Notes document that relate to your comment.

Upcoming Webinar 6/11: Intellectual property (IP) and patent processes for innovators and startups

June 9, 2020, 9:16 a.m. PDT by Tessa Greco

Ocean Observing Prize Innovators,

Tune in to an upcoming webinar hosted by an American-Made Network Power Connector on Thursday, June 11, 2020 at 11am ET. More details and registration info is below.


Power Connector the Wilton E. Scott Institute for Energy Innovation at Carnegie Mellon University is hosting an informational webinar on intellectual property (IP) and patent processes for innovators and startups. The webinar, From Idea to Invention to Intellectual Property: What Startups and Innovators Need to Know, is on Thursday, June 11, 2020, at 11 a.m. ET.

Tune in to hear about IP best practices from legal experts at the national law firm and Network member Babst Calland, as well as Scott Institute entrepreneur Jay Whitacre. This webinar is free and will also have a Q&A session. 

Register here to join:


PNNL Researchers to Serve as Reddit AMA Panel on the Blue Economy

May 12, 2020, 8:05 a.m. PDT by Jenny Wiegele

Hi Innovators, 

PNNL coastal researchers and engineers will host a Reddit Ask Me Anything panel on May 20 on the blue economy, covering some of the  top research being done in marine renewable energy, autonomous ocean vehicles, and commercial vessels and ports, to name a few.

Join us to ask your questions to the panel, including Angela Becker-Dippmann, Simon Geerlofs, David Hume, Andrea Copping, and Rob Cavagnaro, some of whom are members of the Ocean Observing Prize team.

This is a great opportunity to hear from some of the scientists and engineers at the Marine Sciences Laboratory (MSL) in Sequim, Washington, who have expertise in exciting high-growth marine technologies, including wave and tidal energy, offshore wind, environmental monitoring instruments, and sustainable hydrogen and biofuel production from the ocean.

-The Ocean Observing Prize Team

Conduct on Forum and in Comments

April 3, 2020, 8:23 a.m. PDT by Jennifer Garson

Ocean Observing Prize community –

Thank you for continuing to engage with one another on this site, and we certainly encourage everyone to work together and with us to advance solutions to better understand our ocean!

However, as a reminder, per Appendix 1— Additional Terms and Conditions Section 1 of the Official Rules Document, you and your submissions “will be disqualified if they contain any matter that, in the sole discretion of DOE or the Prize Administrator, is indecent, obscene, defamatory, libelous, lacking in professionalism, or demonstrates a lack of respect for people or life on this planet.” This extends to any material posted in the Forum or other comments posted to this HeroX platform. We do monitor the Forum, and all other comments. We will also remove any material that falls underneath these categorization as well.

We hope you are all keeping safe during this time, and please stay engaged with the prize over the next few months while we work to prepare for the next stage of the prize.


Ocean Observing Prize Team

COVID-19 Update for the Ocean Observing Prize

March 23, 2020, 12:12 p.m. PDT by NREL Challenge

At EERE, we understand that due to the coronavirus outbreak, many of us have had to make adjustments to our business operations and practices in order to safeguard the health and safety of our communities. Due to the extraordinary circumstances in which we now find ourselves, EERE is reevaluating prize timelines. Further information coming soon.

All questions and answers related to this prize will be posted on the HeroX page at:

Thank you, competitors, for your continued efforts during this uncertain time. 

We hope that you and your loved ones are well and we look forward to hearing from you.

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