New Challenge Made by Local Foundation

Officials of the Gulf Coast Community Foundation have been exploring ways to spur the marine science industry and help southwest Florida lessen its economic dependence on real estate development and tourism, seen as a major economic weakness for the region. They have come up with a new community grant to “grow our region into the premier venue for developing a marine science economy in the southeastern U.S.”

The Gulf Coast Innovation Challenge was announced in February at a luncheon held bayside in Sarasota. It was very appropriate that the guest speaker was Peter Diamandis, the CEO of the XPRIZE Foundation, who used the $10 million Ansari XPRIZE to launch a boom in private space travel. He is a strong advocate of incentive prize competitions. He feels that the power of competition coupled with a prize will galvanize entrepreneurs and risk takers to come up with exceptional solutions. During his talk Dr. Diamandis spoke about how the idea for XPRIZE came to him while reading a book about the aviator Charles Lindberg, who’s crossing of the Atlantic Ocean, was spurred by a prize competition.

Apparently the Gulf Coast Community Foundation agrees with him, launching its own Challenge at the luncheon. The Challenge is a $500,000 competitive grant opportunity designed to inspire and fund innovative solutions to issues and opportunities facing Florida’s Gulf Coast region. The Challenge will focus on marine science and growing the region’s “Blue Economy,” where thousands of jobs and tens of million dollars in economic impact are tied to the activities, resources and habitats of our region’s waters.

The Challenge, whose theme is “saving our seas, feeding our communities,” is open to individuals, organizations, educational institutions and businesses from the private and nonprofit sectors. Each team must have a nonprofit partner. They will be asked to identify a problem or opportunity facing the region in marine sciences and aquaculture and propose how to solve or capitalize on it. In order to be eligible, the ideas submitted must contribute to the potential growth of the regional economy and provide a public benefit to the region from Boca Grande through Manatee County and have a partner from the region. Five finalists will be awarded $25,000 each to develop their project. The grand prize will be $375,000 given to the winner to bring their product to market.

The Gulf Coast Innovation Challenge seeks to “inspire new and revolutionary marine science technologies and sustainable aquaculture business opportunities.” To learn more about the Challenge go to gulfcoastchallenge.org.

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