Skip to main content

500K AI Moonshot Challenge will combine AI with emerging space technologies to combat Climate Change

LISBON, PORTUGAL: After announcing the 500K AI Moonshot Challenge at the opening ceremony of Web Summit 2019, Portuguese Minister of State, Economy and Digital Transition, Pedro Siza Vieira officially presented the project at a press conference on the second day of the event. Created to effect positive social change on a large scale, this global competition invites teams to solve complex societal problems through innovative uses of AI and emerging space technologies.

Fifty years after humankind took its giant leap, the AI Moonshot Challenge calls on participants worldwide to leverage AI technology and data to solve the most pressing issues back home. By attracting and supporting global talent in their efforts to execute ambitious plans for large-scale change, the competition will position Portugal and Europe at the vanguard of Artificial Intelligence and emerging space technologies.

The inaugural edition will focus on Waste Management and Sustainability – specifically on detecting, localising, and monitoring maritime waste on a planetary scale. The challenge is to combine massive sources of data from a range of different sensors of different types and spectral wavelengths, including Earth Observation Data, to identify maritime waste along the water column (i.e., floating and non-floating). Teams from around the world will compete to put forward the best solution to this formidable environmental problem, applying advanced machine learning techniques to analyse massive amounts of Earth Data.

By providing teams with access to AI tools and supercomputing resources, the competition will attract diverse participants, including students, startups, research centers and universities.

Pre-registration opens today, at, where participants can also find a detailed timeline. Starting in January 2020, participants will have nine months to develop, experiment, and validate their AI solutions with big Earth Data. The winners will be announced in November of next year, at Web Summit 2020, and receive an award of €500,000 to build a team of experts and perform further research in Portugal over a period of up to two years.

The AI Moonshot Challenge is the result of a unique partnership between the Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT), the Portuguese Space Agency (Portugal Space), the European Space Agency (ESA) and Unbabel Labs, the moonshot projects team of Unbabel. This partnership will be created in close collaboration with Minho Advanced Computing Center (MACC) and is promoted through the Portuguese Innovation Agency (ANI).

If you would like more information please check or contact

About Unbabel
Unbabel enables modern enterprises to serve customers in their native languages, with always-on, scalable translation across digital channels.

Powered by AI and refined by a global community of translators, Unbabel combines the speed and scale of machine translation with the authenticity that can come only from a native speaker.

Unbabel has raised $91M in funding and has over 200 employees across its Lisbon headquarters and offices in San Francisco, New York, and Pittsburgh. Leading brands like Facebook, Microsoft,, and easyJet use Unbabel to make their customers happier and their support operations vastly more efficient.

Media Contact: Melissa Cohen Unbabel Head of Communications