Press release

Winners Announced in $7M Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE for Advancements in Autonomous Ocean Exploration

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Today, XPRIZE,
the global leader in designing and operating incentive competitions to
solve humanity’s grand challenges, has announced winners in the $7M
Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE
, a global competition to advance ocean
technologies for rapid, unmanned and high-resolution ocean exploration
and discovery.

The results were revealed at an awards ceremony hosted at the
world-renowned Oceanographic Museum of Monaco, part of the Oceanographic
Institute, Prince Albert I of Monaco Foundation. The grand prize winner,
receiving a total of $4M, was GEBCO-NF
, an international team based in the United States, while KUROSHIO,
from Japan, claimed $1M as the runner-up:

    (International) – Led by Rochelle Wigley, Ph.D. and Yulia Zarayskaya,
    Ph.D., the 14-nation team integrated existing technologies and
    ocean-mapping experience with a robust and low-cost unmanned surface
    vessel, the SeaKIT, along with a novel cloud-based data processing
    system that allows for rapid seabed visualization, to contribute
    towards comprehensive mapping of the ocean floor by 2030.
  • KUROSHIO (Yokosuka,
    Japan) – Led by Takeshi Nakatani, Ph.D., the team integrated
    technologies from their partners to create a surface vessel and
    software platform that can operate with different autonomous
    underwater vessels, which increases the versatility of their

The $1M National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Bonus
Prize for teams to develop technology that could detect a chemical or
biological signal underwater and autonomously track it to its source was
split between junior high school team Ocean
from San Jose, California, claiming $800K as the winner, and Tampa
Deep Sea Xplorers
, from Florida, taking $200K as runner-up.

“Currently, more than 80 percent of the world’s ocean is unmapped, and
I’m proud to have worked alongside the people who will change this as a
part of this XPRIZE,” said Executive Director of the Ocean Discovery
XPRIZE, Jyotika Virmani, Ph.D. “Our vision is that these new
technologies will enable the discovery of new ocean species, underwater
resources, geological features, and safer methods of exploring the deep
sea, while illuminating the mysteries of the deep and discovering what
has remained unknown since the dawn of time.”

Additionally, the judges unanimously recommended a $200K “Moonshot
Award” for Team Tao from the United Kingdom for its unique approach to
seafloor mapping, even though they did not meet the criteria of the

“The Ocean Discovery XPRIZE teams’ accomplishments are a true reflection
of XPRIZE’s core belief that incentivizing the crowd will drive
innovation and investment, leading to a massive shift in the state of
the market,” said Anousheh Ansari, CEO of XPRIZE. “It is an honor to
celebrate the winning teams GEBCO-NF Alumni, KUROSHIO, Ocean Quest,
Tampa Deep Sea Xplorers, as well as Team Tao for their unprecedented,
radical approach. We look forward to watching these pioneers shape the
future of ocean exploration and discovery.”

To determine winners, the panel of independent judges reviewed data from
field testing conducted in Kalamata, Greece and Ponce, Puerto Rico. In
Kalamata, teams had up to 24 hours to map at least 250 km2 of
the ocean seafloor at 5m horizontal resolution or higher. The
gold-standard high-resolution baseline maps, against which the team maps
were judged, were provided by Ocean Infinity and Fugro, while Esri, the
global leader in geographic information system (GIS) software and
geodatabase management, donated its award-winning ArcGIS Online platform
for the teams and judges to use.

“At Shell, we are firm believers in the power of ideas and the value of
collaboration to solve big problems,” said Martin Stauble, Shell’s Vice
President Exploration North America and Brazil. “We are proud to be part
of the Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE. This prize energized teams from
across the globe and stimulated innovation, technology and learning, all
in support of providing data for a better understanding of our oceans.
We hope that the XPRIZE results will be a catalyst to create a
step-change in the speed and quality of data that companies, research
institutes and society can use.”

As part of the total $7M prize purse, four teams opted to compete for
the $1M NOAA Bonus Prize. In a field test in Ponce, Puerto Rico, teams
needed to demonstrate that their technology can “sniff out” a specified
object in the ocean by first detecting and then tracing a biological or
chemical signal to its source. The judges determined that no single team
was able to trace the signal to its source in the timeframe allowed, so
the prize was divided among the two teams that came the closest.

Last year, nine finalist teams were awarded an equal share of the first
$1M of the $7M prize purse, in recognition of their progress-to-date and
to support the teams’ continued technological development.

“NOAA is proud to support this important competition that is
accelerating the development of new unmanned tools capable of tracking
chemical and biological signals in our ocean,” said Neil Jacobs, Ph.D.,
acting NOAA administrator. “The cutting-edge technologies that have
emerged as a result of the NOAA Bonus Prize will help fuel a growing
Blue Economy and inspire future innovation.”

As part of its post-prize impact work, XPRIZE announced a partnership
with Seabed 2030, a collaborative project between The Nippon Foundation
and The General Bathymetric Chart of the Oceans (GEBCO) to inspire the
complete mapping of the world’s ocean by 2030 and to compile all
bathymetric data into the freely-available GEBCO Ocean Map.

Additionally, and in anticipation of World Oceans Day on June 8th,
XPRIZE will launch a science fiction ocean anthology featuring 19
original short stories and artwork set in a future when technology has
helped unlock the secrets of the world’s oceans.

For more information, visit


XPRIZE designs and operates multi-million-dollar, global competitions to
incentivize the development of technological breakthroughs that
accelerate humanity toward a better future. Active competitions include
the $20 Million NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE, the $10 Million ANA Avatar
XPRIZE and the $5 Million IBM Watson AI XPRIZE. For more information,

About Royal Dutch Shell

Shell has been a technology pioneer for more than 100 years, and has
come up with many industry-transforming “firsts” to deliver energy its
customers and partners need. Since 2007, Shell has spent more than $1
billion annually on research and development. In 2014, our research and
development expenditures were $1.2 billion. Shell’s technical and
engineering staff amount to more than 43,000.

Shell companies have operations in more than 70 countries and
territories with businesses including oil and gas exploration and
production; production and marketing of liquefied natural gas and gas to
liquids; manufacturing, marketing and shipping of oil products and
chemicals and renewable energy projects. Royal Dutch Shell plc is
incorporated in England and Wales, has its headquarters in The Hague and
is listed on the London, Amsterdam, and New York stock exchanges. For
further information, visit

About National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is a
science-based federal agency within the Department of Commerce with
regulatory, operational and information service responsibilities with a
presence in every state and U.S. territories. NOAA’s mission is to
understand and predict changes in the Earth’s environment, from the
depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and
manage coastal and marine resources. For more information, visit