The impact of climate change is being experienced at an accelerated rate, and coastal communities are on the frontlines. In the U.S. alone, more than 45% of the population live in areas vulnerable to sea level rise, leaving them at risk to shoreline erosion, flooding and storms.

While all coastal communities share common environmental hazards, with thousands of miles of shoreline, rural coastal Virginia is uniquely vulnerable to storms and flooding associated with tides and extreme precipitation, which are exacerbated by climate change and sea level rise.

Exposure to broad rivers and the open waters of the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Ocean intensify coastal erosion, risking private property and public infrastructure. Saltwater intrusion is also a threat to well water quality and to coastal farms and forests. The region’s heavy reliance on septic systems for wastewater disposal presents both economic and public health challenges.

The RISE Rural Resilience Challenge represents a rare opportunity for game-changing entrepreneurs: The chance to pilot innovative solutions to critical rural resilience challenges in the living laboratory of coastal Virginia, and make a positive impact quickly.

Our Offer

You can apply for grants of up to $200,000 USD.

In addition to funding, RISE and its partners provide a fabrication facility, co-working space, real-world pilot and testing sites, technical, government, and business mentors, investor matchmaking, a customized curriculum, and on-going support to get your business to the next level.

Winning businesses will get access to:

  • Up to $200,000 USD in non-dilutive grant funding
  • Real-world pilot sites in the rural Middle Peninsula region of Virginia
  • Feedback from government pilot hosts
  • Assistance and support with permitting issues and questions
  • University R&D assistance and interns
  • Co-working office space in the Middle Peninsula of Virginia
  • Fabrication facility in Hampton Roads of Virginia
  • Customized business accelerator curriculum
  • Government, technical, and business mentors
  • PR opportunities and media visibility
  • Regulatory assistance with government funding
  • Introductions to potential investors and customers
  • The only ecosystem of coastal resilience entrepreneurs in the U.S.

Our Focus Areas

Our areas of focus for our Challenge are described in detail here. In summary, Rural Coastal Communities seek innovative solutions for the following:

  • Water Quality Management: RISE is looking for innovative approaches to the treatment and use of potable, grey, and black water on rural properties.  Of greatest importance is to reduce the impact of the occupants on the environment and to limit the effects of the changing climate and sea levels on the ability to occupy and enjoy rural coastal locations.
  • Protection of Buildings & Property: RISE is looking for innovative technologies, products and services that introduce new materials, methods, and integrated designs to allow buildings to survive in the coastal environment.  Emphasis is placed on protecting and prolonging the lives of existing structures, as well as holistic approaches to the design of new properties.
  • Flood Management: RISE is looking for innovative approaches to realizing flood management solutions for rural coastal communities.  Living shorelines are a key component to Virginia’s coastal flood protection strategy, and any solution proposed should consider that. In addition, another flooding source is from runoff from the land across the landscape, through ditches and to the bay. Nutrients in this runoff make keeping the stormwater management infrastructure clear of plant growth very challenging.

Application Requirements

  • Your company has to be able to test/deploy your technology in the Middle Peninsula region, in coastal Virginia, either by yourselves or by hiring a local partner.
  • You have to be able to deploy your solution / spend all of the funding (up to $200,000) within a 15-month period after being accepted into the program.
  • Your technology has to be prototype stage or later or already have customers using your technology.*
  • If you are accepted as a finalist, you will be required to submit further documentation like technical details of your solution, a work plan, etc. within 14 calendar days of being notified of your finalist status.
  • Finalists will be required to register with the Virginia State Corporation Commission.


*Two types of submissions are permissible in any of the topic areas:

  • Design Only: This consists of a design and supporting documents for the solution in question. The design and documentation must be detailed enough to quantitatively assess the technical claims of the design and, if applicable, description of implementation/installation.
  • Design-Build: This consists of a suitable design of the product detailed enough to quantitatively assess the technical claims, as well as a work plan to build, install, and demonstrate the solution as part of the award. The award grant will be to execute this work plan. Applicants proposing design-build solutions must have a solution at a prototype stage or later when applying to the Challenge.

Program Requirements

Businesses that are accepted into our program DO NOT have to be located in the Middle Peninsula as long as COVID restrictions are still in place. However, you will still need to deploy your solution in the Middle Peninsula region by either hiring or partnering with a local firm/individuals.

Ready to apply?

Our applications are open until January 10th, 2022.

Mix business with purpose

We create value for our portfolio companies and our ecosystem partners by facilitating mutually beneficial partnerships.

Global diverse talent

Our seasoned team of advisors from diverse backgrounds is critical for your long-term success, delivering value and supporting our founders on their journey to building profitable companies whilst addressing some of the world’s most pressing issues.

Our mentors


Evans McMillion

Executive Director, 757 Accelerate
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Bay McLaughlin

Co-founder & COO, Brinc

Kyle Spencer

Deputy Resilience Officer, City of Norfolk

Our Team


Dr. Katerina Oskarsson

CSO, RISE Resilience Innovation

Dr. Paul A. Robinson

Executive Director, Rise

Barbara Walker

Resilience Project Manager, RISE Resilience Innovation