4 min read
Elon Musk’s $100M XPRIZE
Feb 10, 2021
The world’s biggest problems are the world’s biggest business opportunities.
So, it should be no surprise that the climate crisis merits the largest prize in human history.
Besides the sheer size of the Prize Purse, what is also telling is the speed with which this XPRIZE came together. One hallmark of a truly great leader is the speed with which they take action—in this case it was 31 days.
31 days later…
In this brief blog, I’ll give you an overview of XPRIZE Carbon Removal and explain how it will be key to our fight against climate change.
Let’s dive in!
What is the $100M XPRIZE Carbon Removal Sponsored by Elon Musk?
We can either wait for climate change to continue to decimate elements of our society, or we can focus aggressively on solutions.
And if we’re going to reach the Paris Agreement goal of limiting the Earth’s temperature rise to no more than 1.5˚ Celsius of pre-industrial levels, we need radical innovations.
Approaches and technologies that simply limit CO2 emissions aren’t enough.
We need big, bold solutions that actually remove CO2 already in the air and oceans. And we need them NOW!
That’s the promise of the $100M XPRIZE Carbon Removal sponsored by my dear friend Elon Musk.
As Elon puts it: “We want to make a truly meaningful impact. Carbon negativity, not neutrality. The ultimate goal is new 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.”
With this 4-year global competition, we are challenging entrepreneurs, engineers, and scientists to build and demonstrate carbon removal systems that actually work.
Teams will need to create and demonstrate a solution that pulls CO2 directly from the atmosphere or oceans and locks it away permanently in a way that is environmentally safe and sustainable.
To win the competition, teams must demonstrate a scale model of their solution at a level of carbon removal of 1 ton of CO2 per day, and they must demonstrate to a team of judges that the solution can scale cost-effectively to a gigaton level.
Ultimately, the goal of the $100M XPRIZE Carbon Removal is to inspire technology to achieve the 10 gigaton per year carbon removal target by 2050. This is critical to tackling climate change and restoring the Earth’s carbon balance.
Our hope is that this XPRIZE will activate the public and private sectors to get involved in the same way that the $10M Ansari XPRIZE launched the commercial spaceflight industry.
Want to Get Involved?
We’ll be releasing the full competition guidelines and opening registration on Earth Day, April 22, 2021.
The competition will then last for 4 years through Earth Day 2025.
In the meantime, below are more details on how the Prize will be distributed and a summary of the selection criteria.
Distribution of the $100M Prize Purse
After 18 months, at the discretion of the competition judges, the top 15 teams selected will each receive $1M.
Milestone Awards will kickstart team fundraising for their operating budgets to achieve the full-scale demonstrations required to win the Prize.
In the same timeframe, a total of 25 $200,000 student scholarships will be distributed to student teams competing.
The remaining $80M will be distributed as follows:
- Grand Prize Winner (1st Place): $50M
- 2nd Place: $20M
- 3rd Place: $10M
How the Winning Teams Will be Selected?
Teams can submit entries across natural, engineer and hybrid solutions. Competition judges will evaluate the teams based on 4 basic criteria:
A working carbon removal prototype capable of removing at least 1 ton per day;
The team’s ability to demonstrate to the judges that their solution can economically scale to the gigaton level;
The main metric for this competition is fully considered cost per ton, inclusive of whatever considerations are necessary for environmental benefit, permanence, any value-added products; and,
The final criterion is the length of time that the removed carbon is locked up for. A minimum goal of 100 years is desired.
You can use this link to stay updated on the competition structure and important dates.
An XPRIZE Idea from Visioneering 2019
Good ideas often arise in parallel, as was the case with this competition. The first time the idea of a $100M “XPRIZE Carbon Removal got proposed” was back on October 4, 2019 at XPRIZE’s annual Visioneering program.
But without Elon’s backing, it remained only an idea.
There are no guarantees of success, but we must try. We urgently need to focus our greatest cognitive resources, intellect and technologies.
Our mission is to attract the most brilliant scientists and technologists and empower them with supercomputers, quantum computers, new material sciences and access to capital.
Given the continuing advancement of exponential technologies, I’m more hopeful about our ability to address the climate crisis than ever before.
If you are one of those climate warriors who wants to dedicate yourself to this mission of a lifetime, join us! Check out the details here.