Gulf Coast Innovation Challenge announces finalists in blue economy competition

The Gulf Coast Community Foundation (GCCF) has announced five finalists in the Gulf Coast Innovation Challenge competitive grant opportunity. Thirty teams submitted proposals that focus on key issues surrounding the “blue economy” of Florida’s Gulf Coast, including seafood sustainability, eco-restoration, marine-based medicine and technology. 

The following teams were chosen to proceed to the next stage of the challenge with their proposals to sustain and stimulate our blue economy:
  • Advanced Solar-Powered Filtration Technology for Marine and Freshwater 
  • Antibiotics from the Sea 
  • Cancer Therapies from Sharks 
  • Healthy Earth-Gulf Coast: Sustainable Seafood System 
  • Taking Back the Lion’s Share

“Gulf Coast selected these five finalists because of the potential for their business solutions to have a real economic impact in our region,” says GCCF Director of Marketing and Communications Greg Luberecki. “We engaged a panel of experts to review all of the applications, along with Gulf Coast staff. … It will be up to the finalists to now show us how they can positively affect our blue economy and provide a community benefit in the process.” 

Challenge finalists “Healthy Earth-Gulf Coast” and “Taking Back the Lion’s Share” will explore fishery-based solutions for native mullet and invasive lionfish, respectively, to restore and sustain the marine ecosystem and economy of the Gulf of Mexico. 

“Cancer Therapies from Sharks” and “Antibiotics from the Sea,” two projects backed by Mote Marine scientists, explore the biomedical potential of sharks and marine bacterial organisms to develop medical treatment options to fight cancer and infections. 

“Advanced Solar-Powered Filtration Technology for Marine and Freshwater,” another Mote-backed project, seeks to refine solar-powered filters to provide affordable, clean water around the world.

Read more about the Challenge competition is this 83 Degrees feature.

The GCCF has awarded each finalist team a grant of $25,000 to develop a prototype and refine its business plan, which the foundation’s judging panel will review in November. The winning team will be awarded a grant of up to $375,000 from the GCCF to fully develop its blue economy solution. In the meantime, Luberecki says the public is encouraged to follow the finalists on the Gulf Coast Challenge website as they make periodic progress updates. 

The Gulf Coast Community Foundation recognized Innovation Challenge team “Living Shorelines” for having the most online votes and community support. The foundation awarded the team a $5,000 People’s Choice Award grant to pursue its seawall restoration proposal.

“All of the ideas submitted for the Innovation Challenge had merit. Each was original and rooted in great thought,” Luberecki says. 

“We have seen momentum build behind several that weren’t named finalists, and Gulf Coast will do what it can to help propel those ideas as well. That’s a great byproduct of this challenge: We are focused on our five finalists moving forward, but the other teams have had a great platform to promote their ideas, and many have garnered real interest outside of our challenge.”

Read more articles by Jessi Smith.

 Jessi Smith is a feature writer for 83 Degrees Media in the Tampa Bay region of Florida.
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