Please note that the details of this Challenge are no longer open. This challenge is awarded and is no longer accepting new submissions. You can:
Challenge Eradication of Invasive Mussels in Open Water - Stage 1

Eradication of Invasive Mussels in Open Water - Stage 1

STATUS: Awarded
Active Solvers: 238
Posted: Dec 14 2017
Challenge ID: 9933880
Team Project Rooms are available on this Challenge. Team Share Challenge Share

The Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) is seeking innovative solutions to eradicate invasive zebra and quagga mussels from large reservoirs, lakes, and rivers in a cost effective and environmentally sound manner. Invasive mussel infestations pose significant logistical and economic challenges for local communities, recreationists, and water managers. Currently, no practical methods exist for large-scale eradication of invasive dreissenid mussel populations once they become widely established in a reservoir, lake, or river (referred to as “open water”). Solutions can be novel treatments or approaches that build upon existing treatments. This Challenge launches Stage 1 of a planned three-stage Grand Challenge that includes laboratory-scale and field-scale demonstrations.

Challenge Orientation Video: Subject matter experts from Reclamation discuss the need for innovative solutions to eradicate invasive mussels in open water:


This web site is hosted by a private entity and is not a service 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. To collect an award, Challenge winners’ personally identifiable information must be made available to Reclamation. Please consult the Challenge-Specific Agreement.


Two species of dreissenid mussels, Dreissena polymorpha (zebra mussel) and Dreissena rostriformisbugensis (quagga mussel), have become established in freshwater lakes, reservoirs, and rivers in the United States. Invasive dreissenid mussels pose significant challenges for Reclamation and all agencies and industries that manage water. Invasive mussels are prolific breeders and settle on or within water facility infrastructure such as water intakes, gates, diversion screens, hydropower equipment, pumps, pipelines, and boats. Infested water and hydropower infrastructure can fail or choke off water transmissions. Invasive mussels negatively impact the natural ecology, which can be detrimental to native and endangered species, including native fisheries. Maintaining and operating water supply and delivery facilities, water recreation, and other water dependent industries and economies in mussel infested water bodies are dramatically more expensive and complex. Public recreation may also be severely impacted by mussel infestations, from shell fragments degrading swim beaches to increased requirements and cost for boaters to have their watercraft inspected and decontaminated, and potential impacts on populations of game fish. Management of invasive mussel infestations can also lead to restricted public access, in some cases through a complete ban on public use of infested waters.

Quagga mussel settlement on a rope submerged in Lake Mohave, AZ for 6 months.

Quagga mussel settlement on a trash rack at an infested hydropower facility.

Currently, no practical methods exist for large-scale eradication of invasive dreissenid mussel populations once they become widely established in a reservoir, lake, or river (referred to as “open water”). Control agents, including potash (potassium chloride), copper compounds, and bacterial strains specifically pathogenic to dreissenid mussels, have been tested in open-water contexts with limited success. In the absence of an economically viable and environmentally sound open-water eradication method, control efforts focusing on containment and prevention are used. Treatments specifically in semi-enclosed infrastructure systems are outside of the scope of the current prize competition.

Reclamation is seeking innovative solutions for 100% eradication of zebra and quagga mussels in open water through direct mortality or through non-lethal treatment that lead to their eventual eradication. Proposed treatments must be specific to invasive mussels without significant harm to non-target organisms such as native mussels or threatened and endangered species. Proposed treatments must already comply with existing federal discharge permits and environmental protection regulations or must be implementable with reasonable modifications to existing regulations. Proposed treatments must be cost effective and scalable to large water bodies.

This Challenge consists of three stages.

  • Stage 1 is a Theoretical Challenge requiring the submission of a white paper that describes novel treatments/methods for open-water mussel eradication. Stage 1 may award up to five prizes from a total prize award pool of $100,000.
  • If Stage 1 proves successful, Stage 2 is planned as a subsequent Reduction-to-Practice (RTP) Challenge to provide proof-of-concept in a laboratory-scale demonstration. The efficacy of a treatment that will lead to eradication either by directly killing the mussels or by some other novel technique will be confirmed in a controlled laboratory setting. Stage 2 is anticipated to have a larger prize purse than Stage 1. Stage 2 will be opened to the public for new submissions (not only to those who participated in Stage 1). New entrants may be requested to provide theoretical background information equivalent to that solicited in Stage 1.
  • Stage 3 is envisioned as a Grand Challenge RTP demonstration at field-scale where selected treatments will be deployed in a small-scale, closed-system, open-water environment to determine if the deployment and monitoring methodology is sufficient to produce and demonstrate the feasibility of large-scale dreissenid mussel eradication. Stage 3 is anticipated to have a significantly larger prize purse than Stage 1. Stage 3 will be opened to the public for new submissions (not only to those who participated in Stages 1 and 2). New entrants may be requested to provide proof-of-concept data equivalent to that which will be produced by participants in Stage 2.

In addition to the direct monetary award for Stages 2 and 3, Reclamation will invite industry, non-profit organizations, and venture capital representatives to be present at the Stage 2 and 3 presentations and testing. Participating industry and venture capital representatives will also have the ability to seek and secure potential business deals with Solvers.

This posting only launches the Stage 1 competition. If Stages 2 and 3 are conducted, they will be officially launched and announced with a separate InnoCentive and posting.

Stage 1 is a Theoretical Challenge that requires only a written proposal to be submitted. The Seeker (Reclamation) has a total cash prize purse budget of $100,000 for Stage 1. The minimum full award amount is $15,000. The Seeker can allocate higher individual award amounts up to the prize purse of $100,000, as it deems appropriate. The Challenge award will be contingent upon critical analysis and evaluation by the Seeker and the judging panel appointed by the Seeker. A total of up to five awards can be made for the highest ranked submissions meeting or exceeding the Solution Requirements. As such, the meeting of the Solution Requirements does not guarantee that the proposal will be awarded by the Seeker. Partial cash prizes may be considered for solutions that meet some, but not all, of the criteria.

Submission period ends on February 28, 2018: Submissions to this Challenge must be received by 11:59 PM (US Eastern Time) on February 28, 2018. Late submissions will not be considered.


After the Challenge submission deadline, a Judging Panel will evaluate the submissions and decide 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 or Stage 3. Stage 1 participants are not required to compete in Stage 2 or Stage 3.

To receive an award, the Solvers will not have to transfer their exclusive IP rights to the Seeker. Instead, Solvers will grant to the Seeker a non-exclusive license to practice their solutions. 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. 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.

This Challenge is being conducted by the Seeker under the authority of the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010 (15 U.S. Code § 3719) as amended by the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act of 2017, 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. 

Cash prize purse payments: Payments will be paid in full to the eligible registered individual, entity, or team selected as a winner.

Registering as a team:  Teams must register to compete by having the Team Leader form a Team Project Room. The Team Leader must be a U.S. citizen, permanent U.S. resident, or representative of a U.S. entity eligible to receive a cash prize. In the case of a team registration, the cash prize purse can be split and paid directly to eligible team members as directed by the registered eligible team leader. The Seeker will not make payment to team members that are not eligible under 15 USC 3719 to receive a cash prize.

Team Project Room requests must be made no later than 1 week prior to the Challenge deadline. Once registered, click on ‘Form a Team’ at the top of the Challenge page for further instructions.

Participation by those not eligible for cash prizes: 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.

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:  U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and Molloy & Associates, LLC 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-Licensing 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.

This Challenge is a Theoretical-Licensing Challenge, meaning that the Seeker is requesting non-exclusive rights to use the winning solution. By contrast, Theoretical-IP Transfer means that Solvers must relinquish all rights to the Intellectual Property (IP) for which they are awarded. For these forms of a Theoretical Challenge, Solvers that do not win retain the rights to their solution after the evaluation period is complete. The Seeker retains no rights to any IP not awarded.

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