Scientists Changing CO2 Into Something Good Win Roddenberry Prize

By February 9, 2017

Gene Roddenberry always liked to keep one eye in the present, and another deep into the future. His 1960s series Star Trek would go on to define fandom for a half century, and now his son is following up with a prize that he hopes will help create the future his father envisioned.

Rod Roddenberry, who is an executive producer on the upcoming CBS All Access series Star Trek: Discovery, announced the winners this week for his first-ever Roddenberry Prize, awarding $1 million to support “innovative solutions that address humanity’s greatest challenges.”

Winning the $400,000 grand prize is Opus12, which looks to convert industrial carbon dioxide emissions into valuable chemicals and fuels, reducing the carbon footprint of the world’s heaviest emitters while creating a new revenue stream from what is discarded today as a waste product.

The key people behind Opus12 are Nicholas Flanders, Etosha Cave and Kendra Kuhl, all who combine cutting-edge scientific expertise in the field of carbon dioxide electro-reduction as well as scaling electrochemical technologies, to help develop the technology.

The Opus12 crew were just one of more than 600 applicants for the award, designed to re-imagine how the world teaches and learns, cares for the environment, eradicate disease, and connect more deeply with issues people care about.

The Roddenberry Prize also awarded four $150,000 Innovation Award winners to other developing technologies. They included Cancer Cell Map Initiative, which maps the molecular networks underlying cancer and using these to guide the development of novel therapies and diagnostics.

Another winner was FarmDrive, which is building alternative data-driven credit models that enable financial institutions to lend to smallholder farmers across Africa.

FastOx also received a $150,000 prize to work on a waste gasification system that converts trash into clean energy to benefit disadvantaged communities in the developing world.

And finally, there is SmartStones, a body language based sensory tool that enables community for 370 million non-verbal people around the world, including those with severe autism.

The Roddenberry Prize was announced last year as part of the 50th anniversary of Star Trek, and is part of the overall influence the younger Roddenberry said he’s trying to build in shaping the future.

“We launched the Roddenberry Foundation to build on my father’s legacy and philosophy of inclusion, diversity and respect for life to meaningfully improve the lives of people around the world. With (the) launch of the Roddenberry Prize, we hope to heighten awareness of the critical needs that many face on this planet, and unleash the imagination and drive of those inspired to do something about it.”

Star Trek: Discovery, by the way, is scheduled to premiere in May on CBS All Access.

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Michael Hinman

Michael Hinman

Managing Editor at GeekNation
Michael began what has become nearly 19 years of entertainment reporting as the founder of SyFy Portal, which would become Airlock Alpha after he sold the SyFy brand to NBC Universal. He's based out of New York City where he is the editor of a Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper in the Bronx.