23 student-led teams have won the first US$5m portion of the US$100m carbon removal prize launched by tech billionaire Elon Musk.
The teams were selected from among 195 proposals, and include universities from across ten countries including Australia, China, Malaysia, UK and US. The winners had to submit concepts for carbon removal technologies or ways to improve measurement and verification of carbon removal technologies. Ultimately, the prize is open to any solution that sequesters CO2 for the long term and is economically capable of scaling to the gigatonne levels. This includes direct air capture, mineralisation, and nature-based processes.
Among the winners are:
The student competition is designed to fund early stage concepts among the next generation of climate entrepreneurs and remove barriers for competing in the main competition. All submissions were reviewed by a panel of third-party experts who judged the proposed innovations, their ability to reach gigatonne scale, the teams’ resources and capabilities as well as the feasibility of their project plans. Each of the winners of the demonstration strand receive US$250,000, which they can use to support their push to compete for the overall prize. In the coming three years, the competition will award up to 15 milestone prizes worth US$1m and finally the judges will award a single winner US$50m and three runners up will share US$30m.
“Today’s college and graduate students have proclaimed that solving the climate crisis is one of the most important objectives of their generation. It’s for this reason that this student competition is so critical. Our mission is to engage, inspire and guide the next generation of climate entrepreneurs,” said Peter Diamandis, Founder of XPRIZE.
Musk, who is the CEO of electric car and energy storage firm Tesla, said when the prize was launched earlier this year: “We want to make a truly meaningful impact. Carbon negativity, not neutrality. The ultimate goal is scalable carbon extraction technologies that are measured based on the ‘fully considered cost per ton’ which includes the environmental impact. This is not a theoretical competition; we want teams that will build real systems that can make a measurable impact and scale to a gigaton level. Whatever it takes. Time is of the essence.”
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