Finalists named in President’s Innovation Challenge

The Harvard Innovation Labs announced this week the 15 finalists for this year’s President’s Innovation Challenge.

The 2017 challenge presents Harvard students with an opportunity to engage with issues facing the world and discover ways to make the world work better. The venture competition will award the largest amount of prize money to the widest variety of ideas since its inception in 2012.

“One of the aspects of the Innovation Challenge that I most enjoy is the diversity of ideas that it helps to generate across the University,” said President Drew Faust. “We have remarkable students in so many fields and disciplines, and the ways in which they choose to combine and apply their talents is extraordinary.

“The work pursued by this year’s teams has the potential to improve countless lives, and I look forward to meeting the finalists later this semester to discuss their aspirations,” she added.

The Innovation Challenge aims to support Harvard students on their journeys to turn their desire for a better world into a sustainable venture. Specifically, this year’s finalists are trying to solve social issues (equitability, sustainability, safety), to respond to the desperate need for innovation within the health and life sciences industry, and to innovate in other areas that transcend categories.

This year, more than 200 student teams applied to participate in the Innovation Challenge. The finalists were selected by a committee of more than 150 judges with a wide array of industry experiences.

This year’s President’s Innovation Challenge finalists include:

Social Impact or Culture Enterprise Track

Barakat Bundle Providing a life-saving bundle for each newborn to reduce preventable infant and maternal mortality in South Asia.

C16 — Using synthetic biology to brew environmentally conscious palm oil.

Neptune — Rethinking how restaurants and cities can protect our infrastructure by cleaning up sewers.

Two Rabbits — Providing early childhood education for the world’s most marginalized via low-cost mp3 tech and local community facilitators.

Upsolve — Building turbo tax for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

Health or Life Science Track

Day Zero Diagnostics — Combining genome sequencing and machine learning to modernize infectious disease diagnosis.

GEMS Samaritan Stations — Smart devices that reduce emergency response time by turning bystanders into first responders when every second counts.

Jane Diagnostics — An innovative, low-cost, accurate, rapid, and easy-to-use HPV diagnostic chip for early detection of cervical cancer.

Nanoshear — A nanotechnology-based liquid embolic agent for immediate hemorrhage control in vascular injuries and bleeding patients.

UrSure Inc. — Preventing HIV by focusing on protecting vulnerable populations from infection.

Open Track

AirCrew — Making advanced air-purification systems accessible globally by scaling up novel catalytic materials designed with nanoscale precision.

Impact Labs — Helmet add-on’s that reduce damaging impact forces to the brain.

Lightmatter — AI computing at the speed of light.

Shuflix — A Magic 8 Ball for spontaneous events and undiscovered places in users’ cities.

The Wolfe — Making virtual reality accessible wherever users want it by supercharging laptops.

Faust will announce the grand prize winners at the conclusion of the President’s Innovation Challenge Award Ceremony on May 9. The winners will share $310,000 in awards this year, the most prize money given out for the Innovation Challenge. Grand prize winners in each category will receive $75,000, while three runner-up teams will win $25,000. Additionally, a $10,000 “crowd favorite” will be decided during the ceremony.

Last year’s President’s Innovation Challenge grand prize winners were SurgiBox, a safe and aseptic surgery device; MAGIC, a positive self-image subscription kit curated by women of color for girls of color; and Herald, which offers clinicians real-time access to clinical data. Other past recipients include the venture-backed companies RapidSOS, Mark43, and Vaxess Technologies.

“This year, with the consolidation of our many challenges into one President’s Innovation Challenge with multiple participation categories, we have seen an explosion in the diversity of ideas arising from across the University,” said Jodi Goldstein, managing director of the Harvard Innovation Labs. “It is remarkable to see such a breadth and scale of innovative ventures with the potential to have enormous impact on the world.”