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 19

Challenge Updates

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

BUILD Contest Location Announced and Marine Technology Society Q&A Webinar Recording Now Available

Dec. 21, 2020, 10:37 a.m. PST by Libby Arnold

Hello innovators,

We have exciting news! The Water Power Technologies Office and NOAA announced the location for the Ocean Observing Prize BUILD Contest: Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division in West Bethesda, Maryland. Winning teams from the DESIGN Contest will have the opportunity to build their prototype designs and test them in a wave basin before moving onto sea trials in the SPLASH Contest.

We also want to thank those of you who joined us for the Marine Technology Society, Powering the Blue Economy: Ocean Observing Prize Q&A session earlier this month. The broad spectrum of questions from the community made the webinar a huge success! In case you missed it, we encourage you to check out the webinar recording here:

Please reach out to us on the HeroX Forum with any additional questions.

-The Ocean Observing Prize Team

TEAMER™ Program and Applicant Webinar Recordings Now Available

Nov. 25, 2020, 11:29 a.m. PST by Libby Arnold

Hi Innovators, 

As you are preparing your submissions, we wanted to share an open opportunity to help you test your wave energy powered AUVs. The Testing Expertise and Access for Marine Energy Research (TEAMER™) program, sponsored by WPTO and directed by the Pacific Ocean Energy Trust, supports developers seeking access to the nation’s best wave energy facilities and expertise. The second application window is now open through December 18, 2020. 

If selected, you can get facility access between April and November of 2021, getting you and your device ready for the BUILD Contest. You can apply for TEAMER here:

And in case you missed the recent applicant webinar, check out the recordings for background on opportunities in the blue economy, and an introduction to the available modeling resources:

Reach out with any questions, and looking forward to seeing your submissions come in soon. 

- The Ocean Observing Prize Team

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

Forum 30
Teams 472