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Challenge Long-Term Corrosion Protection of Existing Hydraulic Steel Structures – Stage 1

Long-Term Corrosion Protection of Existing Hydraulic Steel Structures – Stage 1

STATUS: Awarded
Active Solvers: 169
Posted: Jun 06 2017
Challenge ID: 9933879
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How can we protect steel structures from corrosion in water for fifty or more years without significant maintenance or replacement of the protection method?

The Bureau of Reclamation, in collaboration with the U.S Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Navy Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC), and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is seeking long term corrosion protection for large, hydraulic steel structures beyond the protection provided by available coatings and cathodic protection. The structures of interest for this prize competition are hydroelectric penstock pipes and gates that control or divert water. The goal is fifty years of corrosion protection with minimal maintenance and low cost of installation.

This Challenge launches Stage 1 of a planned two-stage Challenge. Stage 2 is envisioned as a Reduction to Practice Challenge in which participants demonstrate their technology in lab- and field-scale evaluations.

Challenge Orientation Video: Subject matter experts from Reclamation and the U.S Army Corps of Engineers discuss the need for improved corrosion protection methods


This web site is hosted by a private entity and is not a service of the Bureau of Reclamation or the Department of the Interior (DOI). The solicitation and collection of your personal or individually identifiable information is subject to the host’s privacy and security policies and will not be shared with Reclamation or DOI unless you win the Challenge. Challenge winners’ personally identifiable information must be made available to Reclamation in order to collect an award. Please consult the Challenge-Specific Agreement.


This competition is seeking long term protection of hydraulic steel structures in immersion service. The structures include penstocks and gates at dam and lock facilities.  These structures corrode, or degrade, in the natural environment without a properly applied corrosion control method. Corrosion reduces the structure’s ability to support load, carry water, etc.  Failure of hydraulic steel structures can cause extensive downtime, loss of productivity, property damage, and even loss of life.

The annual estimated cost of corrosion in the U.S. is $451 billion or 2.7% of the nation’s gross domestic product (IMPACT Study, NACE International, 2016).  This enduring cost is in spite of the development of numerous technologies dedicated to providing corrosion protection. 

The most widely used technologies are coatings and cathodic protection systems.  Protective coatings are the first line of defense against the corrosion of steel structures.  Coal tar enamel and solution vinyl coatings provide superior protection for hydraulic structures.  Their use today requires extensive mitigation from application to removal and disposal to ensure worker health and safety.  Commercial alternatives are available, but the trade-off is a reduced service life, making them very expensive to replace on these short life cycles.  Cathodic protection systems can be used in conjunction with coatings.  These systems prevent corrosion by making the steel structure a cathode in an electrochemical circuit.  Cathodic protection requires ongoing maintenance and component replacements, but works well for the intermittent immersion service of many gates. However, it does not provide adequate protection in the high-flow service environments of many penstocks. 

Our goal is fifty year protection of penstocks and gates with minimal maintenance and lower overall cost.

This Challenge consists of two main stages:

  • Stage 1 is a Theoretical Challenge requiring only a written proposal to be submitted. Participants are asked to submit an idea, along with detailed descriptions, specifications, supporting data or literature, and requirements necessary to bring the idea to practice.
  • If Stage 1 produces winning concepts, Stage 2 is planned as a subsequent Reduction to Practice Challenge.  Participants will be asked to present their technology and demonstrate proof-of-concept data in both lab- and field-scale evaluations. Solvers do not have to participate in Stage 1 to be eligible to participate in Stage 2. Stage 1 participants are not required to participate in Stage 2.

This posting only launches the Stage 1 competition. The Seeker has a total cash prize purse budget of $75,000 for Stage 1.  The cash prize purse awards will be contingent upon critical analysis and evaluation by the Seeker (Reclamation) and the judging panel appointed by the Seeker.  Up to six awards will be made for the best submissions that meet or exceed the Solution Requirements.  The cash prize purse awards for each winning solution will not be less than $10,000 but may be as high as $25,000.  No cash prizes are guaranteed unless submissions meet or exceed the criteria.  Partial cash prizes may be considered for solutions that meet some, but not all, of the criteria.

To receive a Stage 1 award, the Solvers will not have to transfer their IP rights to the Seeker and will not have to grant the Seekers a non-exclusive license to practice their solutions. Please note that any proposal submitted will not be treated as confidential information.  Accordingly, Solvers should take whatever steps they deem necessary to protect their proprietary rights in their solutions prior to submitting their written proposal for consideration in the Challenge (e.g. filing provisional or full patent applications on the solution described in the written proposal submitted prior to submission). See the Challenge-Specific Agreement for full details.

Stage 2 envisions a total prize cash prize purse of $250,000.  In addition to the direct monetary award for Stage 2, Reclamation intends to invite industry, non-profit organizations, and venture capital representatives to be present at the Stage 2 presentations and testing kick-off.  Participating industry and venture capital representatives will also have the ability to seek and secure potential business deals with Solvers. Stage 2 will be officially launched and announced with a separate posting.


After the Challenge submission deadline, a Judging Panel will evaluate the submissions and make a decision with regards to the winning solution(s). The Judging Panel may be composed of Federal and/or Non-Federal scientists, engineers, and other technical experts, including subject matter experts from the listed collaborators for this Challenge.  All persons or entities that submit a proposal will be notified on the status of their submissions. Decisions by the Seeker cannot be contested.


Solvers do not have to participate in Stage 1 to be eligible to participate in Stage 2. Stage 1 participants are not required to participate in Stage 2.

Solvers are not required to forfeit any of their intellectual property (“IP”) rights to the Seeker or Seeker’s Collaborators to be eligible to receive an award. Solvers who have transferred their IP rights in their solution to another, or otherwise entered into any commercial exclusive arrangement with another for the exploitation of their IP rights in their solution prior to the end of the Challenge shall not be eligible for a Challenge award.  See the Challenge-Specific Agreement for full details.

This Challenge is being conducted by the Seeker under the authority of 15 USC 3719, as amended, which states that cash prize purse awards for this prize competition may only be given to an individual that is a citizen or permanent resident of the United States, or an entity that is incorporated in and whose primary place of business is in the United States, subject to verification by the Seeker before cash prize purses are awarded. 

However, submissions can be entertained from all Solvers regardless of whether they are U.S. citizens, U.S. permanent residents, or U.S. entities and are eligible to receive non-cash prize awards, if any.  Meritorious submissions from non-U.S. citizens, permanent residents, and entities will also be recognized in publications issued by the Seeker announcing the results of the competition, such as press releases. Non-U.S citizens/permanent residents or non-U.S entities can also be included on U.S. teams.  However, cash prize purses will only be awarded to persons and entities eligible to receive cash prize purses under the authority of 15 USC 3719, as amended.

Full eligibility details and other restrictions are detailed in the Challenge-Specific Agreement.


About The Seeker:  The Bureau of Reclamation is the sponsoring agency for this prize Competition and is an agency of the United States Federal Government with a mission to manage, develop, and protect water and related resources in an environmentally and economically sound manner in the interest of the American public (

About the Collaborators:  The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Navy Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC), and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) are collaborating with Reclamation on various aspects of this Challenge such as design, technical review, judging, and promotion. 

What is InnoCentive?
InnoCentive is the global innovation marketplace where creative minds solve some of the world's most important problems for cash awards up to $1 million. Commercial, governmental and humanitarian organizations engage with InnoCentive to solve problems that can impact humankind in areas ranging from the environment to medical advancements.

What is a Theoretical Challenge?

An InnoCentive Theoretical Challenge builds upon an idea but is not yet a proof of concept. A solution to a Theoretical Challenge will solidify the Solver's concept with detailed descriptions, specifications and requirements necessary to bringing a good idea closer to becoming an actual product or service. For details about treatment of IP rights, please see the Challenge-Specific Agreement.

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