President’s Challenge To Kick Off Monday

The fourth annual President’s Challenge, a University-wide social entrepreneurship competition hosted by the Harvard Innovation Lab, will kick off Monday.

Participants in the 2015 edition of the challenge will be asked to propose feasible and innovative solutions to contemporary problems across five categories: affordable health, connected cities, education innovation, economic development and sustainable employment, and energy and the environment, University President Drew G. Faust and Provost Alan M. Garber '76 wrote in an email to the Harvard community last week.

“Harvard is about possibilities,” the administrators’ email read. “Here, it is possible to meet—and to become—the change-makers who are applying knowledge and solving the world’s greatest problems.”

Throughout the fall term, the i-Lab will conduct workshops and networking sessions for contest participants, who will work in teams to create and submit proposals. In the spring, ten finalist teams will receive $5,000 in seed money, along with space in the i-Lab to further develop their ideas. The winners and up to three runners-up, who will be announced in the spring, will share $100,000 in prizes.

I-Lab Managing Director Gordon S. Jones said he views the President’s Challenge as an opportunity for students to collaborate with individuals from a variety of disciplines.


“The purpose of the President’s Challenge is to bring together resources from across the University that help students who have ideas and innovations to develop the skills they would need and access the expertise to grow their ideas,” Jones said.

All teams must include at least one student currently enrolled in one of Harvard’s undergraduate or graduate programs, and participants will be encouraged to network to form teams at upcoming i-Lab workshops.

Last year, more than 130 teams, including more than 300 Harvard students, submitted proposals to the President’s Challenge, Jones said. The 2014 Challenge winner, a team that designed a smartphone-based prognosis test to help diabetic foot ulcers, received a prize of $70,000. The runners-up, which included projects focused on optimizing use of public land, developing telehealth solutions in dentistry, and using technology to reduce school bullying, each received $10,000.

Jones cited Mark43, a team of engineers who created a crime-fighting software designed to protect police officers and communities, as an example of previous Challenge participants who have implemented the ideas they developed during the contest.

The President’s Challenge kick-off event will be held on Monday evening at the i-Lab and will feature a keynote address by Kennedy School of Government Dean David T. Ellwood ’75.


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