Deans’ Challenges

Focusing on areas of meaningful societal impact.

This year’s Deans’ Challenge in Cultural Entrepreneurship and Deans’ Challenge in Health & Life Sciences calls on students to develop innovative approaches, technologies, models and organizations that address issues facing society today. The i-lab hosts a number of workshops and networking events to help students learn about the topics, dive deeper into understanding entrepreneurship, structure their ideas, meet like-minded students, and find potential team members.

Proposal Details

The Deans’ Challenges are open to ventures at any stage prior to substantive funding. Ventures still in idea-stage are strongly encouraged to apply. The online application will open on January 1, 2016 and the application deadline will be on February 8, 2016. You will be required to fill out information on your team and your idea, and to upload a proposal of no more than 5 pages in length, including visuals, in PDF format.

The proposal should include the following sections:

  1. Problem/Impact
  2. Solution/Technology
  3. Market Opportunity
  4. Team/Advisors
  5. Go-to-Market Plan
  6. Progress to Date

Finalist Selection

Five finalist teams will be chosen by the first round judging committee to proceed into a second stage of development.

Each finalist team will receive an opportunity to participate in the Venture Incubation Program (VIP), mentorship and $5,000 to further develop their proposals. Finalist teams must be able to participate in all Challenge programming and events held in the Spring semester, i.e. Orientation, Demo Day, etc. The judging committee will consist of Harvard faculty, industry experts, entrepreneurs and investors. Each Challenge committee will evaluate the finalist teams and award a grand prize winner and up to four runners-up with a total of $55,000 to further develop their ideas after the Deans’ Challenge.

Requirements for Eligibility

  • Teams participating in the Deans’ Challenge MUST include at least one matriculated and degree-seeking undergraduate or graduate Harvard student, Harvard postdoctoral fellow or Harvard clinical fellow who serves in a leadership role. Teams may include non-Harvard University team members. While we encourage collaboration with the greater community of entrepreneurs, experts and executives from industry, we require that the Harvard student(s) be substantive member(s) of the founding team, and a committed leader of the venture.
  • The Deans’ Challenge is designed with an emphasis on new ideas, not funded ideas.
  • Teams may only submit one (1) proposal/application.
  • Students must be on only one (1) team.
  • Use of the i-lab and its resources will be subject to the i-lab Terms of Use.

If you have any questions, feel free to email our Deans’ Challenges Coordinator, Josh Nelson –