The X Prize foundation, best known for launching the private spaceflight industry, has launched a $1.4 million oil clean-up challenge.
The foundation, which states that its core aim is "to bring about radical breakthroughs for the benefit of humanity" announced its latest prize at a press conference in Washington DC.
This is its sixth "major incentive competition".
Research teams can register for the competition until April 2011.
The challenge has been called the Wendy Schmidt Oil Cleanup X Challenge, after president of the Schmidt Family Foundation, who provided the funding for the prize.
The X Prize foundation said: "The goal of the... challenge is to inspire entrepreneurs, engineers, and scientists worldwide to develop innovative, rapidly deployable, and highly efficient methods of capturing crude oil from the ocean surface."
After the intial submissions, a panel of judges will select up to 10 research teams to demonstrate their ability to efficiently and rapidly clean up oil on the ocean surface in a competition.
This will take place at a test facility in New Jersey, US, and the team that demonstrates the ability to recover oil on the sea's surface "at the highest rate and with the highest efficiency" will win the $1 million prize.
Second and third place will win $300,000 and $100,000 respectively.