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2019 Schmidt Marine Coastal Pollution Challenge


Pollution is a critical and as yet unchecked threat to coastal waters and estuaries around the world on which billions of humans and innumerable marine organisms rely. One of the most significant pollutants harming coastal ocean systems is nitrogen in various forms. Nitrogen enters coastal waters through a wide range of paths, including agricultural and residential runoff, and human waste stemming from a lack of, or inadequate, sanitation systems. 

While these problems are recognized, and significant research and development focuses on related issues, the technical solutions to reduce nitrogen inputs remain lacking, as evidenced by countless algae blooms and fish kills, the growing number of dead zones, and increasing pollution-related harm to systems such as coral reefs. We believe there is an urgent need to identify new solutions and innovative approaches to stopping, remediating, and addressing the causes and consequences of coastal pollution.

Since its inception in 2015, Schmidt Marine’s focus has been on providing support to projects already underway. Through this new “deep dive” pilot program, designed in collaboration with Conservation X Labs, we are hoping to encourage new ideas and new work focused on the immediate challenge of reducing nitrogen pollution’s harm to coastal systems. 

If you have an idea for a technology with commercialization potential that can dramatically reduce nitrogen levels in coastal waters, or are already developing one, we’d like to hear from you. 

We are most interested in prototyping or pilot-testing of ideas and technologies that have proven challenging to fund. However, we are happy to discuss projects at any stage, provided there is a case to be made that the level of funding available could enable significant advances in combatting environmental deterioration. We do not fund basic research on pollution—our sole interest is in enabling creative groups to develop new solutions. We encourage applications from individuals and groups who do not typically work on ocean issues, and we are open to supporting work at universities, non-profit organizations, or for-profit companies. 

We will be dedicating up to $1,000,000 to this initial call for proposals. This may go to one project or several, depending on the year-one needs of your proposed project. Schmidt Marine was founded in part with the understanding that most funding sources are too short-lived to carry an idea through to wide availability. As such, while we only commit to single year funding, our intention will be to fund the selected project(s) at the same or higher levels for multiple years. As reference, most of our earliest funded projects are going into their 5th year of support. 

We are especially interested in ideas in these areas:

  1. Green coastal infrastructure such as techniques for wide-spread installation of living shorelines or new road construction methods that block or reduce nitrogen inputs
  2. New methods that will enable large-scale, cost-effective, and sustainable production of biochar 
  3. Dissolved nitrate sensors capable of long-term deployments and costing less than $500

The ideas that will rank highest will be market-based solutions that are impressively creative but also economically viable, reflecting a clear understanding of the barriers to, and opportunities for, wide adoption.

If you are interested in proposing a project under this initiative we encourage you to submit a short initial project synopsis proposal. This includes only basic information, and 500 words or less explaining your idea. Schmidt Marine will review these submissions, and teams with ideas that appear to be a good potential fit for the initiative will be asked to submit a full proposal. 

Full proposals will be reviewed by members of our advisory panel, as well as a panel of outside experts. Funded projects will be selected from those ranked highest. Applications are welcome from any country. We are very comfortable with high-risk ideas as long as the potential benefits to the environment are proportional to that risk, and we encourage collaborations.

Please visit our FAQ on the initiative for additional specifics and feel free to contact us if you have questions.

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