The Grand Challenges for Conservation: Harnessing a Global Community of Solvers & entrepreneurs

Prizes and Challenges are global competitions to create solutions for a wicked conservation problem, with a cash prize for the most innovative and impactful ideas. We run open prizes and challenges to harness the collective ingenuity of thousands of entrepreneurs, makers, engineers, researchers, and innovators.

Conservation X Labs has provided millions of dollars to support ideas and innovative businesses that address key underlying drivers of extinction and disrupt the field of conservation as we know it. We have launched Grand Challenges for oceans, invasive species, cooling, and freshwater ecosystems. After each open innovation competition, we design programs to help scale and accelerate solutions tailored to the industry and field.

explore our prizes, challenges, & iMpact below

Current Prizes & Challenges

The artisanal mining grand challenge

The first Saving Water for Nature Grand Challenge - The Artisanal Mining Grand Challenge - will launch on October 2, 2019 in partnership with a global coalition of organizations informed by our report on the Ten Grand Challenges for Water & Biodiversity Conservation. Get notified of the launch and join the Grand Challenge as a partner.

The global cooling prize

A $3 million innovation competition to develop a climate-friendly residential cooling solution that can provide access to cooling to people around the world without warming the planet. The Global Cooling Prize was launched in partnership with the Rocky Mountain Institute and the government of India in 2018.

the ‘O’hia challenge

An invasive fungal pathogen called Rapid ‘Ōhiʻa Death (ROD) has decimated Hawaiian forests.  Conservation X Labs, the U.S. Department of the Interior, and the National Park Service are partnering to identify advanced technological solutions to detect and prevent the spread of ROD. 

Our Impact: The Blue Economy Challenge

The Blue Economy Challenge was the first Grand Challenge for Conservation that sought solutions for alternative protein, new ocean products, and fish-free feed that were scalable, transformative, impactful, feasible, and financially & ecologically sustainable. Conservation X Labs ran the $2.3 million challenge in partnership with InnovationXChange, Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), SecondMuse, and World Wildlife Fund US (WWF).

  • 221 entries with innovative solution ideas across 3 Challenge categories.

  • 517 individuals across 71 countries entered the competition.

  • $2.3M was awarded to 10 winners. Learn more about the winners here.

  • Launching the Grand Challenges for Ocean Conservation Working Paper became a widely regarded landscape analysis for oceans innovation.

  • Identified winners to join the follow-on Oceans X Labs accelerator in partnership with WWF.


As part of our scoping and design process for The Grand Challenges for Conservation, Conservation X Labs develops a landscape analysis that encompasses all current innovation in the industry.

These reports demonstrate our thought leadership and are considered industry standards for open innovation. Each report identifies the most pressing challenges in the field where technology and innovation can create exponential solutions to extinction’s underlying drivers.

Our first report, Launching the Grand Challenges for Ocean Conservation, outlines the most impactful ocean conservation challenges and a pathway to solve them.

scaling & accelerators

After each Grand Challenges for Conservation, we work to bring promising innovations to scale by creating incubator and accelerator programs.

Launched with World Wildlife Fund (US), Oceans X Labs was the world’s first conservation technology accelerator designed to develop scalable innovations that directly address wicked sustainability challenges for aquaculture, and to bring the most transformative innovations from the Blue Economy Challenge to scale.

Conservation X Labs built and operated OXL securing $2M+ of external investment for the 6-company cohort of aquaculture companies.

Running a Grand Challenge with CXL

The cxl process

Conservation X Labs selects and designs our challenges through a multi-month research and development process that consults dozens of global experts and applies our proprietary analysis to identify wicked problems for conservation ripe for innovation. These activities include:

  • Gathering world-class experts for Big Thinks

  • Consulting global field leaders

  • Conducting extensive research

  • Leveraging our proprietary analysis

  • Applying our open innovation expertise

  • Building & strengthening partnerships

  • Designing exponential open innovation competitions

  • Creating follow-on opportunities to scale winners

Global Leaders at the Water & Biodiversity Conservation Big Think, 2018

Global Leaders at the Water & Biodiversity Conservation Big Think, 2018

Global Leaders at the The Ocean Conservation Big Think, 2015

Global Leaders at the The Ocean Conservation Big Think, 2015

Want to Partner & launch a new Grand Challenge for Conservation?

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