Con X Tech Prize, Round 1: Oceans & Blue Sky

Bold Tech Ideas to solve Conservation’s Greatest Challenges! Bring your prototype to life with the Con X Tech Prize! $90,000 in grants
Closed for Entries


The Con X Tech Prize is designed as a competition for bold, new concepts for technology-enabled solutions for conservation. Any submission should be a well thought-out concept for a solution responding to a specific conservation problem or challenge.

To enter, Participants (“Participants,” or in the singular, “Participant”) must submit a project application on the Digital Makerspace, create a project profile that is shared and viewable by other members (registered users of the Digital Makerspace), and agree to the grant competition Official Rules when submitting their project to the Con X Tech Prize. An initial description and design (image, drawing, or computer aided design) of your proposed tech solution and answers to all application questions are required for submission. Teams who already have working prototypes of their ideas are not eligible to apply, though those who want to make substantial modifications to existing prototypes or product pivots are eligible.

For Round 1 of the Con X Tech Prize competition, we invite Participants to submit ideas for two different categories.


Category 1 is the Oceans Category. Conservation X Labs (CXL) welcomes project submissions in response to any of the Ten Grand Challenges for Ocean Conservation, listed on the Challenges page.


Category 2 is the Blue Sky Category, whereby Participants can submit any novel, tech-enabled conservation solution idea. Participants must identify and articulate a specific problem to which their solution applies, which will improve the quality of the submission as well as the success of the tech-idea overall.

Conservation X Labs anticipates selecting up to twenty (20) Finalists and awarding an initial prototyping grant of $3,500 to each Finalist team. Approximately, ten (10) prizes will be awarded to project ideas in each of the two (2) categories for a total of twenty (20) prototyping awards, though CXL reserves the right to allocate the grant awards across the two categories that results in the most impactful and transformative pool of grant awardees. After CXL awards prototyping grant money to Finalists, winners should publically share project advances and updates on the Digital Makerspace during prototype development.

Winners of the first round will be able to compete for a second stage award of $20,000, and receive design, acceleration, and investment support from CXL. For the second stage award, CXL requires applicants to submit photos of a proof-of-concept (prototype or advanced model to demonstrate feasibility), a two-minute video describing the value proposition, and an explanation of how their proof-of-concept meets the team’s proposed performance metrics.


Monday, March 19, 2018

Conservation X Tech Prize open for submissions.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Submission period closes.

Late July 2018

Finalists selected and announced.

Specific deadlines for the second stage of the competition will be shared when the Finalists are announced. We anticipate a 6- to 10-week window for prototyping and initial project development before judging for the second stage of the competition occurs.

First Stage - Submission Requirements

The Con X Tech Prize requires teams to complete a project application (all application questions and prompts) and publish a project profile on the Digital Makerspace (DMS) that is viewable and shared with all registered users of the DMS. This requires teams to prepare and provide the following information in their project application:

  • Description of a conservation problem and your proposed solution for addressing the chosen conservation problem;
  • Names of project members and collaborators. All team members must be registered as a member of the Digital Makerspace. (Teams from different disciplines are highly encouraged and reviewed favorably);
  • Description of your solution’s novelty (how it is different from existing solutions), potential impact (what it solves and why it matters), customer/end user (who it is designed for), initial value proposition (why it works); and
  • An image of the proposed solution idea or depiction of how the solution might be implemented (drawing, a computer-generated model, and/or other sketch or design).

Upon submitting a project application for a new project or from the Submit a Project button on the prize page for an existing project, Participants will be asked if they wish to submit their project to the Con X Tech Prize. Participants should check the box that indicates they agree to the Con X Tech Prize Official Rules, wish to submit their project to the competition as well as indicate which prize category the project fits (Oceans or Blue Sky). The project will automatically be tagged with ConXTechPrize1.

Judging Criteria for the First Stage

Your solution will be evaluated on six equally weighted criteria on a scale of 1 to 5, and awarded up to three additional points for including team members from different disciplines or professions.

1. Transformative & Novel

How revolutionary is the proposed solution and how likely is it to upend fundamental assumptions about what is possible through its approach? Would this solution be ‘ground-breaking,’ with the potential to shift the context of the conservation challenge? How different is it from existing solutions on the market?

2. Impactful

Does the idea demonstrate an understanding of the specific conservation need for which the solution is designed? How likely is the proposed solution to achieve significant outcomes that dramatically and positively affect and address the problem at hand? How would you know when you are successful?

3. Financially Sustainable and Scalable

How simple is the solution in its design, easily replicable, and sufficiently universal to be applied to a larger number of species and/or ecosystems, across multiple geographies and cultures? Does the idea have great potential to work on a larger scale than the prototype/pilot studies? Does it respond to a critical conservation need, market, or demand?

4. Ecologically Sustainable

Does the solution idea result in a significant net positive environmental outcome (when considering its direct and indirect impacts)?

5. Culturally Appropriate and Socially Responsible

Does the proposed project cause any undue harm to a specific group or population? Is it appropriately sensitive and give due credit to different cultures? Does it benefit the public good and not unfairly promote or discriminate against a population?

6. Feasible

Is the proposed solution technologically, culturally, and economically realistic, with an acceptable degree of risk, from idea to deployment?

7. Interdisciplinary or Multidisciplinary

Does this project successfully tap different professions, skillsets or disciplines in order to improve the impact of the solution idea?

Our goal is to reinvent the composition of the conservation community and increase the number of disciplines, and thus, solvers and solutions. We believe that the best solutions exist at the boundaries of disciplines.

Second Stage - Finals

Selected Finalists will be required to provide:

  • Illustrative budget for their prototype and use of the $3,500 grant money before it will be disbursed; and
  • Team’s proposed performance metrics and methods for evaluating their prototype.

From the 20 Finalists who successfully submit the requirements to participate in the Second Stage of the competition, one winner will be selected and awarded $20,000. Conservation X Labs will also support winners of second stage awards with design, engineering, investment, publicity, and acceleration.

To participate in the second stage of the competition, Finalists should share project advances and updates on the Digital Makerspace, but at least one photo of a proof-of-concept (prototype or advanced demo), a two-minute video describing the value proposition, and an explanation of how their proof-of-concept meets the team’s proposed performance metrics. Any project updates, photos or images, and the video should be tagged with ConXTechPrize1 and submitted on their project profile page on the Digital Makerspace.

Finalists are encouraged to review all of the submitted project ideas and profiles and reach out to teams that were not selected as Finalists to see applicability of incorporating components of another team’s idea (with their permission) in their final submission and/or adding new team members and their corresponding skills and disciplines.

The 20 Finalist teams will also be asked to participate in the process of selecting the second stage winner. The Finalists will have the opportunity to rank their top three teams and corresponding solutions out of the other 19 Finalists based on the evaluation criteria for the second stage. The team rankings will be combined with the scores from three independent Finalist judges who will score all 20 Finalists.

Judging Criteria for the Second Stage

Teams will be scored on a scale of 1 to 5 on the following three criteria:

  1. Demonstrated functionality of their proof-of-concept and successfully meeting the team’s proposed performance metrics
  2. Novelty and potential for a transformative solution
  3. Strength of the value proposition (including financial sustainability, scalability and usability by proposed customer or audience)

The teams may receive up to three additional points for achieving each of the following:

  • Incorporating (validated) input, concepts, or a team member from a non-finalist team that improves the overall strength of the project idea and prototype (up to 3 points)
  • Securing any additional funding, matching, or other support for the proposed solution (up to 3 points)


Con X Tech Prize: Hacking Extinction

Find Green

Validation Phase
Connecting green-minded people with green-practicing businesses through a 'Green Yelp'.


Validation Phase
Building a data-driven digital detection tool to help screen containerized cargo for illegal or unwanted wildlife parts, products or derivatives. Playing the needle in the haystack game.


Cassie Ann Hoffman [2352]
Product Manager
Conservation X Labs

First Stage Judges - Oceans

Jake Hanft [35]
Program Manager
Schmidt Marine
San Francisco, United States
Shah Selbe [6]
Los Angeles, United States
Andrew Thaler [18]
Blackbeard Biologic
Saint Michaels, United States
Barbara Martinez [270]
Open Innovation Director
Conservation X Labs
Baltimore, United States
Kate Wing [16]
the databranch
David Lang [0]
Berkeley, United States

First Stage Judges - Blue Sky

Dorothy Jones-Davis [12]
Executive Director
Nation of Makers
Silver Spring, United States
Lucas Joppa [0]
Sammamish, United States
Tatjana Dzambazova [0]
AI Strategy, Autodesk AI Lab
Autodesk Inc.
Mill Valley, United States
Dara Dotz [0]
San Francisco, United States