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What is the Gulf Coast Innovation Challenge?
The Gulf Coast Innovation Challenge is a $500,000 competitive grant opportunity designed to inspire and fund innovative solutions to issues and opportunities facing Florida’s Gulf Coast region. The inaugural challenge will focus on marine science and growing the region’s “Blue Economy.”

What are the deadlines to apply?
The Gulf Coast Innovation Challenge has four phases. Please refer to the Challenge timeline at for submission deadlines and other important dates:

  • Submissions (Feb. 24 – April 30)
  • Feedback (May 1 – June 30)
  • Refinement (July 31 – Oct. 30)
  • Presentations/Evaluation/Selection (Begins Nov. 2)

How do I register my team?
All submissions will be completed through an online form located on the Gulf Coast Innovation Challenge website ( During this “submission phase,” the Team Leader is required to create an account, register the team name and all members, identify the challenge or opportunity, and briefly summarize the team’s hypothesized solution. All submissions will be reviewed by a panel of experts before officially entering the grant challenge.

Why marine science?
By conserving, leveraging, and learning from the wonderfully diverse coastal ecosystems in our backyard, we can grow our region into the premier venue for developing a marine-science economy in the southeastern U.S.

What is the Blue Economy?
Thousands of jobs and tens of millions of dollars in economic impact are tied to the activities, resources, and habitats of our region’s waters. Gulf Coast Community Foundation recently published a strategy for developing our regional marine-sciences cluster, or Blue Economy.

How does the Innovation Challenge work?
Through an online submission process, teams will identify a problem or opportunity facing the region in the marine sciences and aquaculture, and propose how they would solve or capitalize on it. Gulf Coast Community Foundation will award up to five of these initial submissions with funding to “prototype” their ideas. One winner may then be selected to receive additional funding to develop its solution for market.

How do we know if our submission has been accepted?
The Team Leader will receive an e-mail notification when a team’s submission has been approved. The Team Leader may also receive a request for edits or more information before a decision is made.

Is the video required for the full application?
Yes, a short video is required. During this “feedback phase,” videos will be displayed with each team’s submission in a public Challengers Gallery on the website where our community might comment, ask questions, or provide feedback on submissions.

What are the awards?
Up to five Teams will receive grants of $25,000 each to prototype their solutions (i.e., product, service, project, or business). These winners will then pitch their prototypes to a panel of experts, who will evaluate the solutions and provide recommendation to the Board of Directors of Gulf Coast Community Foundation. One Team may then be selected to receive grant funding up to $375,000 to develop its solution for market.

Who decides who’s funded?
All final decisions with respect to funding are made by our Board of Directors, with recommendations and advice from a team of experts charged with evaluating your proposed solutions.

Who can participate? Can only nonprofit organizations apply?
The Innovation Challenge is open to teams of individuals, organizations, educational institutions, and/or businesses from the private and nonprofit sectors. However, each team must include a nonprofit partner. Teams also must identify one Team Leader who will serve as the primary contact and public face for the submission.

What is the geographic area of the Innovation Challenge?
To be eligible, submitted ideas must contribute to the potential growth of the regional economy and provide a public benefit in (but not limited to) the Gulf Coast region of Florida from Boca Grande through Manatee County. Teams must include at least one partner from this region.

What kind of projects will be selected and funded?
We want you to help us identify priority issues facing our region and promote collaborative, innovative solutions to them. That said, Gulf Coast’s mission is to transform our region through bold and proactive philanthropy, and our Board of Directors is focused on systems-level change.

Through the Innovation Challenge, we aim to foster cross-sector collaboration, leverage existing resources (financial and intellectual), and accelerate positive systemic change while providing a community service or benefit. Gulf Coast Community Foundation’s Blue Economy report spotlights some—but not all—strategic opportunities to grow our region’s Blue Economy while saving our seas and feeding our communities.

Why did Gulf Coast create this Innovation Challenge?
Put simply, we aim to spur and fund innovative, breakthrough ideas that will transform our region. Research shows that the growing use of incentive grant challenges by philanthropies can be effective mechanisms to encourage innovation and achieve social benefits. Gulf Coast Community Foundation will tap into the competitive, entrepreneurial spirit of individuals, businesses, and organizations in our region to spur innovations that can grow our economy while providing a community service or benefit.

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