Slick trick

An innovative oil clean-up system is proving popular in industry due to its resistance to harsh environments.

The now famous ’X-Prize’ series of global incentivised competitions is a way of bringing out the very best in human endeavour and technological achievement. The inaugural prize was awarded for the first private organisation to launch a reusable manned spacecraft, while follow-ups included a competition to quickly and cheaply decode the human genome, in an effort to bring the medical benefits of modern genetics to the masses.

So it’s perhaps strange to see the most recently awarded prize essentially acknowledging one of our more shameful environmental failings as a society.

The Wendy Schmidt Oil Cleanup X Challenge put up $1m (£600,000m) to initiate a generation of solutions to speed up the clean-up of seawater surface oil that results from spillages from ocean platforms, tankers and other sources.