National Geographic and Sky Ocean Ventures award $1.3 million as the Ocean Plastic Innovation Challenge winners are announced

Thursday 12 December 2019

Three teams from Chile, France, and Germany have been announced as the winners of the National Geographic and Sky Ocean Ventures Ocean Plastic Innovation Challenge. Launched in February 2019, the Ocean Plastic Innovation Challenge is a competition that asked problem solvers from around the globe to develop novel solutions to tackle the world’s plastic waste crisis.

Selected from nearly 300 teams from around the world, the winners and two runners-up in the categories will share $300,000 to implement their ideas to reduce the amount of single-use plastic reaching the ocean.  

The winning teams are:

Circular Economy: Algramo

Algramo is developing packaging/distribution technology to enable top consumer brands to sell their products for the lowest possible costs in convenient, smart, reusable packaging — currently piloting with Unilever Chile.

Country: Chile

Design: Qwarzo

Qwarzo develops an unprecedented paper technology providing a 100% recyclable, biodegradable and compostable solution to replace fully and cost effectively single-use plastic in numerous applications, like coffee stirrers, cutlery, straws and other packaging.

Country: France

Data Visualization: #PerpetualPlastic

#PerpetualPlastic creates physical data sculptures out of flip-flops washed up on Bali’s beaches that represent the paths and fate of all plastics ever produced.

Country: Germany

Jamie Rowles, Head of investments, Sky Ocean Ventures, said: “Sky Ocean Ventures and National Geographic launched this competition to find diverse and transformational businesses. Each of the teams has the dedication and commitment to help tackle the ocean plastics crisis. We’re looking forward to working with them to develop their products and get them to market.”

“The passion, dedication and ingenuity of the winners of the National Geographic and Sky Ocean Ventures Plastic Innovation Challenge give us confidence that we can turn the tide on the plastic waste crisis,” said Michael L. Ulica, president and chief operating officer of the National Geographic Society. “We are proud to support these innovators as part of our commitment to investing in solutions that will lead to meaningful change in the outlook for our ocean.”

The runner-up in the design category, EcoFlexy was recognized for their exciting and novel materials and Astu Eco was recognized for their focus on job creation and empowerment for women. The circular economy runners-up were Kecipir and Returnity, whose projects showed great promise in terms of scalability and potential for impact.

Further to this, Sky Ocean Ventures has made offers of investment to Algramo and EcoFlexy, representing $1 million in aggregate investment to support the further development of their ideas.

The companies will also receive commercial and strategic support from Sky to help them build their businesses as part of the unique Sky Ocean Ventures impact investment fund. These entities are leading by example by joining Sky’s campaign in the fight against single-use plastic and have demonstrated the dedication required to help turn off the plastic tap.

The Ocean Plastic Innovation Challenge is a key component of National Geographic’s Planet or Plastic? initiative, a global effort to significantly reduce the amount of single-use plastic that reaches the ocean by raising awareness, elevating science and education, advancing innovation, and inspiring action.

For more information on the winning teams, visit the Ocean Plastic Innovation Challenge website here.

Photos of each winning team, Sky Ocean Ventures awardee, and runner-up are located here.

For interview opportunities regarding the Ocean Plastic Innovation Challenge, please contact National Geographic at

For more information on Sky Ocean Ventures investments, please contact the Sky Ocean Rescue Press Office at or 020 3196 8963. 

About Sky Ocean Ventures

Sky Ocean Ventures was launched in March 2018 with a £25 million cornerstone commitment from Sky and the objective of seeking out investment opportunities in start-up innovation businesses that can help solve the ocean plastic waste crisis. 

About the National Geographic Society

The National Geographic Society is a global non-profit organization that uses the power of science, exploration, education and storytelling to illuminate and protect the wonder of the world. Since 1888, National Geographic has pushed the boundaries of exploration, investing in bold people and transformative ideas, providing more than 14,000 grants for work across all seven continents, reaching 3 million students each year through education offerings, and engaging audiences around the globe through signature experiences, stories and content. To learn more, visit or follow us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

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