Xprize: How to compete for Elon Musk’s $100m carbon removal fund

23 Apr 2021

Elon Musk at Web Summit 2013. Image: Conor McCabe Photography

Through what it is calling the ‘largest incentive prize in history’, Xprize will fund projects that can scale to a gigatonne of carbon removal per year.

Elon Musk has launched a $100m incentive prize for innovations that can remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere or the oceans.

The Xprize website labels it as the “largest incentive prize in history” and its objective is to facilitate gigatonne-scale carbon removal over the coming decades.

Xprize will be a four-year global competition open to natural, engineered and hybrid solutions. The winning teams must be able to show they can remove 1,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide every year, and that they can scale to a megatonne and gigatonne of removal per year in future.

As well as scalability, teams will also be judged on their operational performance and costs. The guidelines say that any carbon-negative project is eligible as long as it removes carbon dioxide from the air or oceans and sequesters it in a reliable way. Applicants can also submit existing solutions if they adhere to the eligibility criteria.

“We want teams to build real systems that can make a measurable impact at a gigatonne level,” Musk said. “Whatever it takes. Time is of the essence.”

After the competition’s first year, the judges will review all submissions and award up to 15 ‘milestone prizes’ of $1m each.

According to the competition guidelines, these judges will be “highly qualified subject-matter experts from a diversity of fields and professional backgrounds”.

After four years, one grand prize winner will receive $50m, and $30m will be distributed among up to three runners-up. There will also be up to $5m set aside for student teams that target carbon removal or develop supporting technologies.

“It’s not too late to use human creativity, innovation and competition to rewrite our history and create a better future for all of us on this planet we call home,” said Xprize CEO Anousheh Ansari.

Registration for Xprize is open now and the closing date for submissions is 1 October 2021. The competition guidelines say that applicants will be awarded in November. Registered teams will get access to events like webinars where they will receive competition updates and the chance to engage with other applicants.

Lisa Ardill was careers editor at Silicon Republic until June 2021