Cleaning up the oceans - a successful crowdfunding campaign for innovation
At the start of the crowdfunding campaign, the project idea was at a applied research phase; enormous global support helped raise over 2 million dollars on the campaign's own platform to help bring this project to its pilot-testing phase. The project will deliver a structure in the pacific ocean that will clean up about half the Great Pacific garbage patch in 10 years time. Ocean cleanup chose crowdfunding as the means to finance the project as it helped develop the project using emotional aspect of environmentally friendly campaigns for the the crowd. This form of incentive was not possible through institutional or European funding routes.
Crowdfunding through their own platform
The crowdfunding campaign was launched from New York in September 2014. The decision to launch the campaign on an ad-hoc platform, The Ocean Cleanup project website, in US, allowed the project to save between 300 000-400 000 Euros in currency conversion rates. This decision highlights challenges innovators can anticipate when raising momentum for a global project.
Crowdfunding model and campaign results
The campaign was hybrid, allowing for both donation and rewards, with 40% of supporters choosing a reward. The campaign lasted for 100 days and sought to raise 2 million dollars for the project.
Scope, global vision and communication as key success factors
Key drivers for the project were: its scalability, openness to partnerships, and the organization's willingness to raise awareness. Partnerships were made with key players including financial institutes, media and social media channels and pages known for viral content. The scope and value of the project was of natural interest to many donors and the feasibility of the project was ensured prior to promoting it. Furthermore, to assure the success of the project, the project coordinator benchmarked the campaign against others to determine a realistic goal.
Communications was a key success factor. The project wasn’t seen as just chance to crowdfund a project, but was structured in a manner to raise awareness on a pressing social issue: the pollution of oceans. The campaign thus aimed to achieve both social and monetary goals. The success of the campaign was recognised, the founders received the highest honours from the United Nations Environmental Programme.
Among the biggest barrier encountered prior to launching the project was skepticism from the scientific community itself, despite the project founders delivering sound research evidence. Crowdfunding projects are at times burdened by the ambitions of promises; overpromising and under-delivering plagues the field and makes the process less transparent. Maintaining trust and transparency is essential to making sure the crowds and investors continue to support alternative finance.
How the project is moving forward?
The Ocean Cleanup project is focused on delivering its goals, both raising awareness of ocean pollution and cleaning it up. Proving that waste found in oceans is within reach from the surface, helped give the project a scientific edge and strategy to deliver a cleaning method. Currently the project is entering its prototype stages, with a test being delivered in the North Sea in the Summer of 2016.
Lessons learned for crowdfunding for innovation
A key takeaway from this project is that alternative finance and hybrid forms of finance can be a driver to stimulate innovation. Crowdfunding can achieve a lot, but the project coordinators noted that crowdfunding can be too optimistic and opportunistic at times and there should be much care laid into keeping the field professional.
The Ocean Cleanup is a example of CF for innovation that is the first case study of the project, “Assessing the potential for CF and other forms of alternative finance to support research and innovation” coordinated on behalf of the European Commission by Open Evidence, Politecnico di Milano, Ernst & Young and European Crowdfunding Network.
If you are looking for a crowdfunding platform to use to raise money for your project, take a look at our unique list of all EU platforms: http://crowdfunding4innovation.eu/platforms
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Study coordinator: Kasia Jakimowicz, firstname.lastname@example.org