ARCHIVE: President’s Challenge

Tackling complex, systemic problems facing the world today.

 2016 President’s Challenge Winner Announced!

Although its eye-catching prototype on display at the President’s Challenge Demo Day at the Harvard Innovation Lab (i-lab) attracted a lot of interest Monday night, the team representing SurgiBox — a collapsible, safe, and aseptic surgery device — didn’t think it had much of a chance at this year’s $70,000 award.

So when President Drew Faust announced that it had won the grand prize, the excitement and surprise was so intense that it had yet to subside 15 minutes after the company’s name had been read to the crowd gathered at the i-lab.

Read the entire Gazette article here

President’s Challenge Overview

There are truly important issues facing the world today. The President’s Challenge demonstrates the University’s commitment to using the i-lab as a vehicle for bringing individuals together in cross-school initiatives and fostering a Harvard-wide entrepreneurial community to find solutions to these problems.

The President’s Challenge presents Harvard students with the opportunity to develop their ideas and transition them into viable, scalable ventures with the support of the University and its resources. Ranging from participation from i-lab workshops to consultation with experts drawn from Harvard’s faculty, alumni and friends around the world, the i-lab has a number of resources to take your idea to the next level.

This Challenge is structured to consist of two stages. Within the first stage, teams assemble with the support of i-lab programming and submit their initial proposals – due by February 8, 2016. After evaluation by the Judging Committee, ten teams will receive $5,000 each to further develop their proposals. At a Demo Day in the spring, prize winnings amounting to $100,000 and will be awarded to one grand prize winner and up to three runners-up.

Topic Areas

  • Education Innovation
    Education fuels and informs humankind’s innate curiosity, driving social and scientific advances throughout history. We seek new ways to motivate and inspire humans around the world, improving the lives of all in the process.
  • Affordable Health
    In every country around the world, we have to discover and implement new ways to deliver affordable health to every citizen. Doing so will require new technologies, new business models, better education, and ways to encourage healthy behavior. We seek ideas that offer the prospect of universal affordable health.
  • Energy & Environment
    To accommodate our increasing energy needs we must create novel ways to fuel our world while counteracting the impact on the globe. We need ideas that will provide safer, cleaner and cheaper alternatives to existing energy systems, and we need ways to mitigate and remediate existing environmental challenges.
  • Economic Development & Sustainable Employment
    Among the key obstacles for increasing economic opportunity for all is the need to create and sustain jobs that foster a healthy economy and social mobility. We seek unique ideas that blend business and social value as a means of generating sustainable work and economic growth in underserved, disadvantaged communities everywhere in the world.
  • Food and Agriculture
    As the global population continues to grow, we must rethink the way our food is produced and distributed. Our current food system cannot sustain the global changes and population growth that we anticipate. The challenge of creating a sustainable food system is further intensified by increased global demands and natural resource consumption. We seek ideas that will help the future of food and agriculture become more efficient, effective, and satisfying.

Proposal Details

This Challenge is open to ventures at any stage prior to substantive funding. Ventures still in idea-stage are strongly encouraged to apply. 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 MUST 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

The President’s Challenge is open to teams that include at least one matriculated and degree-seeking undergraduate or graduate Harvard student, Harvard postdoctoral fellow or clinical fellow. While we encourage collaboration with entrepreneurs, scientists 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.

Please contact Josh Nelson, Challenge Coordinator, at with any questions.