The BP Gulf Oil spill has unleashed somewhere on the order 150 to 200 million gallons of oil in the Gulf of Mexico. Thankfully, much of this oil has been eaten by bacteria, reducing its damage. But much of it is hitting the Gulf coastlines, and scientists know that a disaster of that magnitude will have years of impact.
As if that wasn’t enough, a new oil spill has occurred in Michigan. More than 800,000 gallons of oil spilled into the Kalamazoo River. The spill resulted from a ruptured pipe, and threatens Lake Michigan. The damage is already happening, as the New York Times reported:
On the river on Wednesday, Dan Backus arrived at his favorite fishing spot and found black water and oil-soaked plants. Looking out at the damage from the spill, he mourned the loss of fish and vegetation.
“It’s all destroyed,” said Mr. Backus, 64. “I’m just sick about it.”
It’s certain we will see these events occur again in the future. The question is…how can we be faster and more effective at limiting their environmental and economic impact?
Enter the X PRIZE Foundation, and Wendy Schmidt, head of the Schmidt Family Foundation and wife of Google CEO Eric Schmidt. They are partnering with Spigit to power a new challenge to address this issue.
The Wendy Schmidt Oil Cleanup X CHALLENGE
The Challenge is a year long open innovation competition, starting on August 1, 2010. You can find the site here:
The site is seeking “innovative solutions that will speed the pace of cleaning up seawater surface oil resulting from spillage from ocean platforms, tankers, and other sources.” The Challenge consists of two phases:
- Phase I (Aug 2010 – Apr 2011): Teams submit their proposals
- Phase II (Summer 2011): Selected teams demonstrate their solutions at the National Oil Spill Response Research & Renewable Energy Test Facility in Leonardo, New Jersey
Winners will be selected after Phase II. There will be three prizes:
- $1 million grand prize
- $300,000 second place performer
- $100,000 third place performer
Submissions will be accepted starting August 1, 2010. For some additional background on this, you can watch CNN’s report on the Challenge, embedded below:
The Expert Decision Crowdsourcing Model
A few months ago, we wrote about the Four Models of Competitive Crowdsourcing. One of the four was called Expert Decision, described below:
The Expert Decision model engages the global community to find solutions to complex problems. Experts review the submissions, identifying those best addressing the objective of the contest. The sentiment of the crowd is not an element in these contests, as they typically address more technical challenges.
This model also prevents theft by competitors of people’s ideas. The submissions are only visible to designated experts associated with the sponsoring organization. The closed nature of submissions is important for generating interest from people with the technical competence to address a challenge.
The Oil Cleanup X CHALLENGE will follow this crowdsourcing model.
X PRIZE Foundation’s History
The X PRIZE Foundation has established a great track record in pushing advancements in the realms of science and technology. You may remember the X PRIZE foundations’ challenge for space travel: the Ansari X PRIZE. Objective there was to develop a reusable spacecraft capable of ascending 100 kilometers above Earth, carrying three passengers. Twice in two weeks. Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen backed the team that won that one.
Current X PRIZE Foundation challenges include:
- Google Lunar X PRIZE: send a robot to the moon, travel 500 meters on the surface, and send back video, images and data
- Progressive Automotive X PRIZE: create automobiles that achieve quantum leaps forward in gas mileage while producing very low emissions
- Archon Genomic X PRIZE: develop better, cheaper and faster ways to sequence genomes
Based on the track record of the X PRIZE Foundation, I’m looking forward to seeing what innovations the world can come up with to improve our response to oil spills. You can check out the site here: http://iprizecleanoceans.org/
(Cross-posted @ Spigit)