Official Roster of Teams, Advisory Board Announced in the $7M Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE

32 Teams from 22 Countries Compete to Advance Rapid and Unmanned Ocean Exploration; Leading Oceanography and Ocean Technology Experts to Advise in Competition

LOS ANGELES--()--XPRIZE, the world’s leader in designing and managing incentive competitions to solve humanity’s grand challenges, today announced a total of 32 teams from 22 countries will compete to win the $7M Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE, a three-year global competition challenging teams to advance ocean technologies for rapid, unmanned and high-resolution ocean exploration and discovery. An Advisory Board of leading experts in the fields of oceanography, Geographical Information Systems (GIS), underwater technologies and imagery, also announced today, will advise the Ocean Discovery XPRIZE.

Competing teams hail from Canada, China, France, Germany, Ghana, India, Israel, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Portugal, Russia, South Korea, Switzerland, Thailand, United Kingdom and the United States, as well as a virtual organization representing 34 countries. Among the teams competing are university teams of undergraduate and graduate students, non-profits, startups, and professional scientists and engineers. A complete listing of competing teams is posted on the XPRIZE site.

“Our teams and Advisory Board members are joined in a passionate mission to develop deep-sea underwater robots for autonomous, fast and high-resolution ocean exploration, and the success of this Prize will allow humanity to fully map and discover the wonders of the deep sea like never before,” said Jyotika Virmani, Ph.D., prize lead and senior director with XPRIZE’s Energy and Environment Group. “We believe the innovation that emerges from the Ocean Discovery XPRIZE will truly push the boundaries of next-generation ocean technologies.”

“Innovation is the true game changer, and the ability to create radical breakthroughs in ocean discovery is the cornerstone for doing things differently and better than before,” said David Schewitz, Shell vice president of geophysics for the Americas. “XPRIZE competitions can help turn ideas into reality, and we’re looking forward to the exciting ideas and new surprises that the teams will reveal over the course of this competition.”

The competition will take place in two rounds of testing over three years. Next, competing teams will submit technical documentation by this December, at which point a panel of expert judges will down-select up to 25 teams to continue to develop their solutions for the first round of testing.

  • During Round 1: Up to 25 teams, who will be announced February 2017, will proceed to Round 1 of testing, in which their entries will operate at a depth of 2,000 meters, aim to map 20 percent of the 500 km2 competition area at 5.0 meters resolution, and identify and image at least five archeological, biological or geological features at any depth, all within 16 hours.
  • During Round 2: Based on their performance in Round 1, up to 10 finalist teams will be selected to continue to Round 2 of testing, in which their entries will operate at a depth of 4,000 meters, aim to map 50 percent of the 500 km2 competition area at 5.0 meters resolution, and find and image and identify and image at least ten archeological, biological or geological features at any depth, all within 24 hours.

The teams that proceed past Round 1 will split a $1M milestone prize purse. At the end of the competition, a $4M Grand Prize and $1M Second Place Prize will be awarded to the teams that receive the top scores for demonstrating the highest resolution seafloor mapping, after meeting all minimum requirements for speed, autonomy and depth. As part of the total $7M prize purse, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is offering a $1M bonus prize to teams that demonstrate their technology can “sniff out” a specified object in the ocean by tracing a biological and chemical signal to its source.

"The goal of the $1M NOAA bonus prize is to aid NOAA's marine resource management responsibilities by identifying technologies capable of detecting and tracking sources of marine pollution, locating deep-ocean hydrothermal vents and methane seeps, and monitoring marine life for scientific research and conservation efforts,” said Alan Leonardi, director of NOAA’s Office of Ocean Exploration and Research.

The Ocean Discovery XPRIZE also announced the formation of an Advisory Board of academic and technical experts, comprised of:

  • Alan P. Leonardi, Ph.D., director, NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration & Research;
  • Brian Skerry, award-winning National Geographic Magazine photographer and 2014 National Geographic Photography Fellow;
  • Christopher L. Sabine, Ph.D., director of NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory and an affiliate faculty member at the University of Washington School of Oceanography;
  • Dawn Wright, Ph.D., chief scientist of the Environmental Systems Research Institute (Esri) and professor of Geography and Oceanography at Oregon State University;
  • Dirk Smit, Ph.D., vice president of R&D Exploration Technology, Chairman Shell Science Council and Chief Scientist Geophysics;
  • Malcolm Ross, Ph.D., member of the Shell GameChanger™ team tasked with evaluating and accelerating disruptive technologies and an adjunct faculty member at Rice University;
  • Prof. Ralph Rayner, Ph.D., chairman of Sonardyne International Limited, sector director of Energy and Environment for BMT Group Limited, professorial research fellow at the London School of Economics;
  • Richard W. (Rick) Spinrad, Ph.D., chief scientist of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA); and
  • Steve Keedwell, Global principle technical expert for Offshore Surveys at Shell and geomatics operations and AUV expert.

For more information, visit


XPRIZE, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, is the global leader in designing and implementing innovative competition models to solve the world’s grandest challenges. XPRIZE utilizes a unique combination of gamification, crowd-sourcing, incentive prize theory and exponential technologies as a formula to make 10x (vs. 10%) impact in the grand challenge domains facing our world. XPRIZE’s philosophy is that—under the right circumstances— igniting rapid experimentation from a variety of diverse lenses is the most efficient and effective method to driving exponential impact and solutions to grand challenges. Active competitions include the $30M Google Lunar XPRIZE, the $20M NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE, the $15M Global Learning XPRIZE, the $10M Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE, the $7M Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE, the $7M Barbara Bush Foundation Adult Literacy XPRIZE and the $5M IBM Watson AI XPRIZE. For more information, visit

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


Eric Desatnik, 310-741-4892
Jackie Wei, 310-741-4918

Release Summary

Official Roster of Teams, Advisory Board Announced in the $7M Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE


Eric Desatnik, 310-741-4892
Jackie Wei, 310-741-4918