Of the 300 million tons of plastic produced every year, an estimated 26 million eventually ends up in the ocean. As a result, some estimates suggest there are now 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic in our oceans and seas. Even more concerning is the fact that this number is expected to increase, with National Geographic predicting that the annual amount of plastic flowing into the oceans will triple by 2040. 

Solving the ocean’s plastic problem starts with taking the litter out of the water. But this requires first knowing where the plastic is, which is where Earth Observation and GNSS come into play. To tackle the global plastic pollution crisis, the European Commission launched the EIC Horizon and CASSINI Prize for digital space applications (HORIZON-EUSPA-2022-MARITIME-PRIZE) aiming at developing space solutions to track and remove marine plastic pollution. 

The Prize builds on the exploitation of the EU Space Programme which consists of several flagship programmes, including:

  • Copernicus - Europe´s Earth observation programme
  • Galileo - EU´s Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS), providing improved positioning and timing information with significant positive implications for many European services and users. 
  • EGNOS - the European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service,  the EU´s regional satellite-based augmentation system (SBAS). 

About the Prize

The prize is foreseen as part of the Horizon Europe Work Programme.

CASSINI is the European Commission’s initiative to support entrepreneurs, start-ups and SMEs developing innovative applications and services that leverage the EU Space Programme. Dedicated to promoting the commercialisation of Galileo, EGNOS and Copernicus data and services, EUSPA is actively involved in the initiative.

The CASSINI Prize for Digital Space Apps is looking for innovative commercial solutions that leverage the EU Space Programme to detect, monitor and remove plastics, microplastics and other litter from our oceans and waterways. With a total prize purse of EUR 2.85 million, the top three proposals are eligible to win EUR 0.95 million each, which can be used to help further develop and commercialise your solution. Because the contest aims to create a new ecosystem of entrepreneurs, applications are only open to SMEs. All proposed solutions must be close-to-market and be able to prove their effectiveness in a real-world demonstration. 

Expected results

The prize will be awarded to one or several best data-driven marine or maritime digital application(s) meeting the criteria of the contest. The application uses Copernicus and/or Galileo data in combination with other data sources, and aims at solving problems or meeting customer needs related to the detection, monitoring and tracking of plastic pollution in rivers, lakes, shores and coastal zones and to support its removal in order to support the prevention of ocean pollution. The awarding of the prize is expected to leverage more private investment capital to the winning contestant.

Rules of the Contest are available here

All the information about the prize is available on the EC's Funding & Tender Opportunities portal