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Prize Capital Announces Due Diligence Phase for $10 Million Algae Fuel Prize

Prize Capital, LLC today announced the due diligence phase, covering final planning, rules development and schedule for a proposed $10 million Algae Fuel Prize focused on spurring the development of radically advanced fuels from algae.

Lee Stein, founder and chairman of Prize Capital, made the announcement in advance of a press conference held at the University of California, San Diego, to introduce the new San Diego Center for Algae Biotechnology (SD-CAB). The press conference included remarks by CleanTECH San Diego and San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders.

Immediately following the press conference, Prize Capital hosted a workshop at the SIO for reviewing criteria for the new Algae Fuel Prize. Participants included recognized experts in the algae and biotechnology communities from the University of Texas, Sandia National Laboratory, Flagship Ventures, British Petroleum, Synthetic Genomics, University of California at San Diego, the California Energy Commission, The Scripps Research Institute, Colorado State University, The Freshwater Institute, The Natural Resources Defense Council, Mohr Davidow Ventures, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, the Cleantech Group, the Harris Group, the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, Scientific Hatcheries, the X PRIZE Foundation, the Global Footprint Network, and SD-CAB, among others.

"From Charles Lindbergh crossing the Atlantic to help launch the multibillion dollar aviation industry, to the Ansari X PRIZE's launch of the space tourism industry, prize competitions have sparked creativity from around the world to accomplish what many believed impossible," said Stein. "Significant research is already underway on creating commercial fuels from algae. Prize Capital believes the power of a prize can stimulate additional research and focus world attention on the creation of truly sustainable and scalable renewable fuels to wean our world off its addiction to petroleum."

While inducement prizes have been around for over two hundred years, the Algae Fuel Prize will be the first application of the Prize Capital model. Under this model, Prize Capital selects teams from among those entering each competition and provides each with working capital to create prototypes, secure protection for their intellectual property, and potentially other essential needs. The concept is to provide financial leverage so teams of all sizes can accelerate their discovery processes, enhance the level of competition and speed a result, Stein said.

"We see the Algae Fuel Prize as complementary to existing R&D efforts, including ours," said Dr. Stephen Mayfield, a leading researcher at The Scripps Research Institute and founder of Sapphire Energy, a startup company in San Diego focused on creating oil from algae. "The current research initiatives and venture capital dollars that are focused on developing algae and other significantly advanced renewable fuel technologies will benefit from the new minds, creativity and media attention being added to the mix from this prominent competition."

Algae and other similarly advanced renewable fuels have tremendous potential to displace and one day even replace petroleum, Stein said.

"Imagine, producing from what people call 'pond scum' 10 to 150 times as much oil as traditional energy feedstocks, such as corn and soybeans," said Stein. "For added benefit, it can be grown on non-arable land using non-potable water."

The April 28 announcement was the culmination of more than a year of research and planning since Prize Capital announced the initial prize planning and discovery phase last March at the Washington International Renewable Energy Conference (WIREC).

"We started with a broader concept for a renewable fuel prize and narrowed the focus to algae after extensive research and discussions with some of the leading scientists in the field," Stein said. "Today's workshop marks a major milestone in creating the final criteria and launching the Algae Fuel Prize, which could come as early as this fall. "

Stein said Prize Capital believes the Algae Fuel Prize competition will provide incentives to determine which of the thousands of algae strains are best suited for absorbing energy and producing renewable fuels, where these strains work best, how to most effectively harvest algae, and how to most efficiently extract the plentiful oil from within algae's cellular walls at sufficient scale, among other challenges.

"As experienced with previous competitions, the Algae Fuel Prize will focus minds from around the world to sort through these questions, generate breakthroughs in algae biotechnology, expand an emerging industry, create jobs, and improve the world in ways we may not have imagined," Stein said. "This prize sets a major goal for the teams to pursue in the form of a $10 million check to the winner while providing the financial fuel to get them there faster."

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