Emerging Commonwealth scientists win big in ocean innovation contest
British creators of Plastic-i – a powerful tool for mapping ocean plastics with earth-observing satellites – have won the first-ever Hack The Planet Competition 2021.
Plastic-i is an idea to help tackle marine pollution by combining satellite data with machine learning to create an open-source map of floating pollution, updated daily.
Dr James Doherty, Dr Lauren Bierman, Michael Lawton and Dr Jonal Hill developed the cutting-edge concept as a collaboration between OXLABS and Plymouth Marine Laboratory.
It topped five other exceptional finalists during a live pitch event held today to find the most impactful and scalable idea that uses satellite technologies to solve ocean challenges.
Terangi Team from Malaysia won second place for their pitch to create a technology platform to monitor environmental elements such as climate change and water quality, while analysing potential threats.
Loop Recyclers Tech from Nigeria won third place with their concept to use geospatial data to monitor and improve recycling rates for plastics, preventing them from reaching rivers and the ocean.
The three winners will share a prize pool of £20,000 plus over £85,000 in satellite data and cloud computing services.
Speaking for Plastic-i, Dr Doherty said: “The whole Hack The Planet programme has been an absolute pleasure, [particularly] for the information programme which was run by the Satellite Applications Catapult and the Commonwealth. This is a high five and this is really where the work starts.”
The finale event, broadcast from Harwell and London to a global online audience, concluded a months-long competition that spanned 54 countries, run by the Satellite Applications Catapult and the Commonwealth Secretariat. The contest was supported by Planet, Maxar, Amazon Web Services and Deloitte.
Training and mentoring
More than 80 teams submitted entries, from which just six were shortlisted for the final stage, following an intensive training and mentoring programme.
The pitch event opened with an address from the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, Rt. Hon. Patricia Scotland QC, COO of the Satellite Applications Catapult, Lucy Edge and CEO of Planet Will Marshall. The event also featured a keynote speech from world-renowned marine biologist and ocean educator Dr Asha de Vos, the founder and executive director of Oceanswell.
The distinguished panel of judges that selected the winners included: Chris Gorell Barnes, Founding Partner, Ocean 14 Capital and Co-Founder of Blue Marine Foundation; Angelique Pouponneau, CEO, Seychelles Conservation and Climate Adaptation Trust; Andrew Zolli, VP for Sustainability and Impact at Planet; Angelique Brathwaite, Co-Founder of Blue Finance; Phil Cooper,
Lucy Edge, Chief Operating Officer, Satellite Applications Catapult said: “From the spark of an idea two years ago, we are delighted to today be announcing our first ever winners of the Hack the Planet competition. It has been a remarkable journey; from over 80 entries, two months of intensive training and mentoring, to the final six teams taking part in the final today, the commitment shown by the entrants has been inspirational. We look forward to following the journey of Plastic-i, as they take their ideas forward and we stand ready to support all the finalists to turn their ideas into a reality.”
Nicholas Hardman-Mountford, Head of Oceans and Natural Resources at the Commonwealth Secretariat said: “Accelerating innovation is at the heart of what the Commonwealth strives and stands for and is essential if we are to achieve the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. This competition is a reminder to all of us that those on the frontline of the climate challenge are the best placed to know the solutions needed and that game-changing ideas can come from all regions of the Commonwealth. We look forward to working with these entrepreneurs to unlock the potential of their ideas to solve the enormous ocean and climate challenges humanity is facing.”