Safeguarding Marine Ecosystems: How can novel technologies assist us in reducing plastic waste and pollution, whilst enhancing water quality and biodiversity?

SDG 14 - Novartis



Safeguarding Marine Ecosystems: How can novel technologies assist us in reducing plastic waste and pollution, whilst enhancing water quality and biodiversity?

Seventy percent of our planet is covered by oceans. By 2100, global sea temperatures are on track to rise by 3.2°C and this, along with rising CO2 levels, is resulting in an increase in ocean acidification. This is the process by which carbonate ions are removed from water, with devastating implications both for the many marine organisms that rely on water for development and for the ocean’s ability to sequester carbon.

Thousands of different types of pollutants can be found in coastal waters, including chemical waste, fossil fuels, raw and untreated sewage, heavy metals and street waste. On top of this, every year, an estimated 5 to 12 million tonnes of plastics enter our oceans, 89% of which are single-use items like plastic bags.

Oceans are the world’s largest ecosystem, home to nearly one million known species with vast potential for further scientific discovery. All marine wildlife, from krill to whales, can store carbon. Through their feeding activities and other life processes, marine life can help to remove carbon from the atmosphere. Rising sea temperatures will significantly impact the ability for this wildlife to sequester carbon from the atmosphere.

The health of our oceans is intimately linked to our own health and wellbeing. According to UNESCO, the ocean can be an ally against COVID-19 – bacteria found in the depths of the ocean are used to carry out rapid testing to detect the presence of COVID-19. And the diversity of species found in the ocean offers great promise for pharmaceutical developments.

Companies play an integral part in preserving and restoring vital ecosystems as well as promoting the sustainable use of natural resources, all while retaining consumer confidence in their product offerings. By scaling up research and development, supporting technological innovation, investing in natural infrastructure and implementing responsible sourcing policies, companies can have a real impact on the preservation and restoration of ocean ecosystems.

At Novartis, we aim to drive sustainability through our own operations, as well as those of our suppliers, and we have set ambitious targets to minimize our impacts on climate, waste and water. For example, we aim to be carbon, plastic and water neutral by 2030. We have already made significant progress and our ambition is to be a catalyst for positive change and a leader in environmental sustainability.

Novartis is proud to support the Lead 2030 Challenge for SDG 14. This Challenge seeks to support solutions that utilize novel technologies to reduce marine pollution, enhance water quality, and promote biodiversity and sustainability of our natural marine ecosystems.

The challenge welcomes solutions from young innovators that address at least one of the following:

  • Reduce marine pollution.
  • Restore and/or improve water quality.
  • Restore and/or promote biodiversity of the marine ecosystem.

Challenge crtieria


Aligned: Evidently aligned with the Lead2030 Challenge for SDG 14 supported by Novartis. See ‘About’.

Youth-led: Founded by a person aged 18 – 30.

Focused: Well-structured time horizon, identified key stakeholders and beneficiaries, and proposed outcomes that are reasonable and well thought out.

Market ready: Product/service already in market or ready to go to market.

Impactful: Solutions must have a positive social impact, for example generating employment, or developing skills.

Measurable: Impacts of solutions must have been adequately measured and/or be measurable. Solutions that have the option to quantify plastic credits are preferable.

Financially viable: Must be able to achieve efficiency and to survive independently through the resources they generate and/or the investments and donations they attract.

Scalable: Potential to perform as well or better after expanding in scope or size and/or being transported to other regions.



The winning solution will receive:

  • Sponsorship to participate in the One Young World Summit 2022
  • A US$50,000 grant from Novartis
  • 12 months of mentorship from a team of Novartis professionals. The mentorship team will work to accelerate your solution based on the needs of your initiative or organisation, such as:
    • Business strategy
    • Best practices for data collection
    • Monitoring and evaluation
    • Product design


  • 13 April 2022: Applications close.
  • 19 April 2022: Shortlisted candidates confirmed and invited to submit second round application.
  • 3 May 2022: Second round application deadline.
  • 10 - 30 May 2022: Candidate interviews.
  • 1 June 2022: Challenge Winner confirmed.

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