WITT Energy took home last year's Gulfstream Navigator award at the Ocean Exchange, which carries a $100,000 prize. 

As director of Georgia’s Center of Innovation for EnergyCostas Simoglou goes to a lot of conferences, but there’s something different about the annual Ocean Exchange in Savannah. 

In addition to an interactive format that encourages engaging conversations between talks and spurs serendipity, the sustainability conference has created a global network of innovators whose interaction should soon result in millions of dollars of investment to Georgia, he said. 

“The format, the content, the decision making and everything else, I have not seen anything like this anywhere,” Mr. Simoglou told Global Atlanta by phone from the conference. 

Seven of the 10 companies presenting at this year’s event are from outside the U.S., hailing from countries as diverse as Denmark, India, Indonesia, Kenya and beyond. 

Mr. Simoglou was particularly impressed by Okeanos, which is developing a new technology that uses a proprietary chip to separate salt from seawater at the micro level, potentially reducing the cost of taming brine into potable water. Meanwhile, a Dutch university is presenting a new way to separate plastics by quality during the recycling process, while a Kenyan company is showcasing its “plastic lumber,” made by compressing trash into planks and posts. 

All 10 companies are competing for two separate $100,000 awards picked by a panel of 22 experts. The Gulfstream Navigator award recognizes a solution accelerating sustainability across industries, while the WWL Orcelle award honors what the judges deem a commercially viable product that promises an environmental bottom line for the shipping and logistics industry. 

Millicent Pitts, executive director and CEO of the exchange, said the money is an enticement, but that’s only part of what draws attendees. The conference does a lot of “door opening” for entrepreneurs and researchers across industries and disciplines whose core concern is sustainability from the environmental, commercial and health perspectives. 

“They also come because we provide a network of individuals here that is pretty fantastic for them, so even if they don’t walk away with a check, they walk away with some very good connections,” she told Global Atlanta. “Our mission is to help accelerate the adoption of a solution.” 

That said, the return of past winners, who share first hand what the $100,000 grant has enabled them to achieve, shows that the Ocean Exchange is now really getting its sea legs. This week’s conference has attracted more than 300 paying delegates from all over the world, about double last year’s attendance. 

On the first night of the conference, last year’s winners showed how the grants have helped them move toward commercialization. 

WITT Energy of Scotland has achieved patents in the U.K. and European Union for a device that converts motion from any direction into energy, turning anything from waves and wind to a bumpy road into a viable source. 

Ecosubsea makes a submersible robot that cleans the hulls of ocean vessels while in port, a hazardous job currently performed by divers. The technology makes ships more fuel efficient by reducing drag, and it also collects debris, keeping shipping channels clearer – something divers can’t do. 

The Ocean Exchange was internationally oriented from the get-go, but its field of influence has broadened as sustainability becomes more of a universal imperative for major corporations. A lot of the expertise on relevant topics is located abroad as well, she said. 

“Once one starts looking at where innovations are in those areas, it just naturally takes you all over the world.”

Find this year’s contenders for the two $100,000 awards below. The winners will be announced Oct. 7: 

-Project Sense from Explicit  (Denmark);

-Waste to Plastics from Delft University of Technology (The Netherlands);

-ATA Rapid Mine Water Reclamation from Soane Mining (USA);

-Deep Green from Minesto  (Sweden);

-Desalination at the Speed of Light from Okeanos Technologies (USA);

-Ozone: Shield, Preserve, Protect from Anacail (United Kingdom);

-Ocean Cleanup from The Ocean Cleanup  (The Netherlands);

-Hydrogen Assisted Combustion Saves Fuel/Reduces Emissions from Hydrophi Technologies (USA);

-Hydrogen Economy Today from GenOil   (Canada);

-Recycles All Plastic Garbage from Land and Ocean from EcoPost (Kenya)

To learn more about the solutions and to view past winners and participants, visit www.oceanexchange.org. 

As managing editor of Global Atlanta, Trevor has spent 15+ years reporting on Atlanta’s ties with the world. An avid traveler, he has undertaken trips to 30+ countries to uncover stories on the perils...