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Go blue, get some green

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  • | 10:00 a.m. March 6, 2015
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The marine sciences industry has big-time potential on the Gulf Coast, and one of leading nonprofits in the region aims to prove it.

The Gulf Coast Community Foundation, a Venice-based philanthropic organization, recently announced the inaugural Gulf Coast Innovation Challenge. The goal, say foundation officials, is to generate ideas and innovations that will grow the marine science sector, or the “blue economy.” The foundation will award up to $500,000 in grant incentives in the challenge, which is open to individuals, businesses and nonprofits.

The marine sciences cluster represents thousands of jobs in the area, the foundation says. The sector includes everything from biomedicine to aquaculture. The foundation, in conjunction with the innovation challenge, recently released a report on the potential of the sector, with research conducted by Cambridge, Mass.-based Cambridge Systematics. “While people may know that Mote Marine Laboratory is based here, the marine sciences remain a relatively 'hidden industry' in the region,” Cambridge Systematics Senior Associate Evan Enarson says in a release.  “Our research aims to show people just how much is going on beneath the waves.”

The guidelines for the innovation contest are to identify a regional challenge in marine science and aquaculture and then propose a solution. The solution should contribute to the region's economy and provides a public benefit.

Initial submissions will be screened before teams are invited to proceed to a full application. A panel of experts from the foundation will review the applications and reward up to five $25,000 grants this summer to finalists. The finalists will pitch their prototypes in November, the foundation says, with up to $375,000 at stake that would fund an overall winner's project.

The foundation launched the challenge Feb. 24, the same day X Prize founder and CEO Peter Diamandis spoke at a lunch in Sarasota the foundation sponsored. X Prize oversees public competitions that encourage technological advances. “Our board was definitely inspired by incentive-prize pioneers like Peter Diamandis in developing an incentive challenge for our own region,” Gulf Coast Senior Vice President Mark Pritchett says in the statement. “If we can spur and incubate promising ideas through this challenge, we will be successful.”


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