Open Innovation Challenge 2023

Island Climate Initiative (ICI) with support from the United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Clean Cities, Blue Ocean (CCBO) program is launching the Open Innovation Challenge (OIC), seeking innovative and creative solutions that will help create an impact in addressing the challenge of plastic waste pollution in Sri Lanka and beyond. 


Why an Open Innovation challenge?

Plastic waste management is a serious global environmental problem. Given that single use plastics (SUPs) are discarded after their first use, often within minutes, they are the primary contributor to plastic waste.

Sri Lanka is no exception and faces a significant challenge regarding its plastic waste management. Currently it is estimated that 900 MT of plastic waste is generated daily of which only 30% is collected and only around 5% is directed towards recycling with the remainder ending up in the environment.

The challenge is further exacerbated by a dearth of plastic use and waste and recycling data in the country. There is little to no data on the amounts and types of plastics used, who the producers are and where non-recycled waste plastic ends up in the environment. The ability to identify producers, users and where the waste plastic ends up would greatly help efforts to improve the recycling of plastic waste and the reduction of plastic pollution.

This overarching, global challenge of post-consumer plastic waste is complex and requires different innovative solutions.

What are we looking for?

We are looking for any type of solution, be it a tangible product, or a new business model, that can lead to the reduction of plastic waste flow into the natural environment. The challenges of developing a circular economy (reduce, reuse, recycle) for plastic are wide-ranging, and consequently, solutions should also be as diverse. Therefore, while we are keen on solutions in the following broad areas, those that fall outside them are also welcome. 

  • Reuse of single-use plastic.
  • Novel route-to-market strategies that replace or reduce the plastic packaging required to deliver a product the consumer.
  • Eco-friendly (sustainable) and cost-effective alternatives to plastic items (brushes, cups, plates, etc.).
  • Data challenge: a reliable, cost-effective plastic waste data collection process/system that can be deployed at scale.

Why apply?

  • Selected solution providers will get the opportunity to pitch their solutions at the Island Plastics Challenge solution showcase event to an audience of industry stakeholders. 
  • Stand a chance to win cash prizes and access to an innovation acceleration programme specifically designed to help take your solution to the market. 

Who can apply?

  • Anyone with a solution to reduce plastic waste pollution can apply for the OIC.


Frequently Asked Questions

About the challenge

What is the Open Innovation Challenge (OIC)?

The Open Innovation Challenge (OIC) is an innovation challenge platform launched by Island Climate Initiative (Pvt) Ltd with support from the United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Clean Cities, Blue Ocean (CCBO) program. 

We realize that there are so many people and groups out there that are trying to solve this global plastic waste problem through a variety of creative innovations, concepts and new ways of doing business. We also realize that, particularly in Sri Lanka, despite this massive innovative potential, most innovators and entrepreneurs in this space do not have a platform to showcase their products and solutions and to scale up. 

This is exactly why we are launching this OIC. The OIC is open to anyone and everyone with a solution that tackles the issue of plastic waste. We want to provide them with a platform to showcase their technology and support them in developing their business to the next level.  

If you believe that you have a solution which addresses the issues surrounding plastic waste pollution, send us your application. If you are one of the shortlisted applicants, then you will be invited to demonstrate your solutions to a multitude of industry stakeholders at our Solution Showcase Event. Selected applicants may stand a chance at winning prizes including a sponsored opportunity at a business accelerator which will help them scale up and take their solutions to the wider market. 

Who is running the OIC?

We at Island Climate Initiative (ICI) are running the OIC. Our company was founded in 2018, and we are based in Colombo, Sri Lanka. The company was set up to support sustainable innovation and enterprise development by leveraging the emerging sustainability and climate-positive investment opportunities in Sri Lanka. Our primary focus areas include clean energy, circular economy, and smart agriculture.  

Who is funding and supporting the OIC?

The OIC is funded and supported by the United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Clean Cities Blue Oceans (CCBO) Program. CCBO is USAID’s global, $48 million flagship program to address ocean plastic pollution. It is active in 7 countries around the world, where it supports the development of land-based strategies in these rapidly urbanizing communities.  

What is the timeline for the OIC?

You can find all the information about the timeline here.

Applicant eligibility criteria

Who is eligible to enter the OIC?

Pretty much anyone. Individuals, teams, start-ups, or even established companies that have a solution which addresses the challenge of plastic waste pollution are more than welcome to apply. 

Just remember, all individuals, team members, and/or employees must be 18 years of age or older to apply.

Can non-Sri Lankan persons/entities apply?

Yes, absolutely! The OIC platform is open to applicants from anywhere around the world.

Do I or my company have to be based in Sri Lanka to apply?

No, you do not need to be in Sri Lanka or based in Sri Lanka to apply.

Challenge application

How do I/my company apply for OIC?

To apply for the OIC, simply click apply on the OIC website, fill out the application by following the instructions and answering all the questions, and click submit. Make sure to read the Terms & Conditions for the OIC befor e you apply.

How long will it take to apply?

This is a difficult question to answer. The time taken to prepare and submit an application form may vary between you and another applicant. We recommend browsing through the application platform to view the questions prior to submitting your application so you can assess how long this may take to complete.

Can I/my company edit the application once submitted?

Unfortunately, once the application has been submitted, it cannot be edited. 

How well developed should the solutions be?

Anyone with any level of solution can apply.

Can I/my company apply with an idea/concept?

Yes, absolutely.

What happens if there is a technical issue when submitting application?

We recommend that you start your application as early as possible and submit it well in advance of the deadline. Unfortunately, we cannot be responsible for technical difficulties after the application deadline. If you have problems with the online form, please contact us at

The shortlisting and selection process

How are the applicants shortlisted for participation at the solution showcase event?

All applications received will be reviewed and screened initially by the ICI team. Then, an expert panel made up of four independent experts from around the globe will perform a review of this initial screening process to ensure that it is objective and that the applicants who have the most viable solutions are shortlisted and invited to demonstrate their solutions at the solution showcase event. 

All reviewers and experts will be asked to declare any actual or potential conflicts of interest and will not participate in discussions or decisions where they are subject to such a conflict of interest.

Intellectual Property Rights

Do I/my company retain the rights to the Intellectual Property (IP) contained in my/our application?

The applicant retains full ownership of IP to their solutions. For more information on this, make sure to read the Intellectual Property Rights section of the Terms & Conditions.

Will entries to the challenge be kept confidential?

All applications to the OIC will be kept confidential and only used for the purpose of shortlisting. However, in doing so ICI may in turn be required to share this information with our partners in this Challenge, subject to appropriate obligations of confidentiality as listed in our Terms & Conditions. We encourage you to apply with as much information as you think is necessary for us to get a good idea of your technology.

What to expect as a shortlisted applicant selected to pitch at the solution showcase event 

How will I/my company be notified if we are selected?

If you are selected to proceed, then we will get in touch with you through the contact email you provided when you applied.

Will I/my company representative be required to travel if selected?

If you are one of the shortlisted applicants invited to showcase your product at the solution showcase event, then you are encouraged to attend the event in person. However, we do understand if you are unable to do so for whatever reason. In that case, you can make your demonstration virtually.

Is there a competition with award(s) for applicants?

Yes. Those applicants who are shortlisted will stand a chance to receive funding and support to scale their ideas and tackle this urgent challenge. Please read our Terms and Conditions on the awarding of prizes.

Who judges and selects winners for the awards?

ICI and the panel of experts we are working with will select the winners.

Are winning applicants guaranteed further engagement with any of the industry stakeholders?

Our aim is to give you the chance to showcase your solution to key players in this sector, and to provide you with the support necessary to take your product and business to the next level of its development. While we cannot guarantee that any of the industry stakeholders will engage directly with you, if there is interest from both parties for such engagement, then ICI will definitely work with you to facilitate that process.

These FAQs will be updated should additional questions arise.

If you have further questions about the Open Innovation Challenge which are not covered in the FAQs, please contact us by emailing

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