NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE

Article

Turning the CO2 threat into an investment opportunity

As a greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide (CO2) represents one of the greatest environmental challenges to the world. But what if we could change that—by turning CO2 into an innovation opportunity?

Historically, our greatest challenges have inspired forward-thinking women and men to step up and find solutions through ingenuity and innovation. Think of the development of vaccines in response to pandemics; fertilizers that helped prevent famine; emissions control technologies that addressed the threat of acid rain.

This competition, and XPRIZE competitions in general, emphasize not only innovative ideas, but being able to demonstrate their real-world application.

We’ve grown used to thinking of carbon dioxide as a liability, due to its impact as an atmospheric gas that contributes to global warming.

But carbon is also present in other ways. You can find carbon in everything from the T-shirt and shoes you’re wearing and the tree in your yard, to the very cells that make up your body.

Marcius Extavour, XPRIZE

Dr. Marcius Extavour, XPRIZE senior director of Energy and Resources and prize lead

So what if we could convert carbon from a form we don’t want—CO2 gas emissions—into one we did? It’d be a game-changer: We could turn one of the world’s great environmental challenges into something that benefits all of us.

It’s that kind of thinking that’s inspired the global NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE competition, a US$20 million competition pushing innovative companies, research groups and entrepreneurs around the world to reimagine carbon. They are developing technologies that can take waste CO2 and turn it into something valuable.

The competition started in 2015 and has attracted big thinkers from around the world. The ideas have ranged from turning CO2 into concrete and running shoes to fish food and biofuels.

Forty-seven entrants have been whittled down to the ten best—finalists from five countries who have demonstrated that they are ready to take their innovations to the big stage. What’s more, these are not ‘someday’ ideas that might make a difference many decades from now.

“This competition, and XPRIZE competitions in general, emphasize not only innovative ideas, but being able to demonstrate their real-world application,” says Dr. Marcius Extavour, XPRIZE senior director of Energy and Resources and prize lead. “The final phase of the Carbon XPRIZE which began this spring, has 10 finalists working within two test facilities to test their ideas and show to the world that their technologies can work at an industrial scale.”

If they succeed, this could mean that they would be able to deploy game-changing solutions to a power plant or industrial facility near you—removing CO2 from the smokestack and turning it into shoes, concrete, plastic. Just imagine the possibilities.

Want to learn more about these companies and entrepreneurs, and the innovation opportunities they are working on? Click here.

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