Campus & Community

President’s Challenge narrows field to 10 finalists

4 min read

Students ready to solve some of the world’s most critical problems

Ten teams have been selected as finalists for the 2016 President’s Challenge, President Drew Faust announced today.

The President’s Challenge gives Harvard students an opportunity to take their ideas and turn them into fully formed businesses with the support of the University and the Harvard Innovation Labs (i-lab).

“The President’s Challenge shines a light on remarkable work that is happening at Harvard,” said Faust. “I am always struck by the diversity of talents represented on our finalist teams. Our students’ ideas and innovations transcend disciplines and fields, and exemplify our hopes for harnessing the extraordinary strengths that exist throughout the University.”

Now in its fifth year, the challenge aims to catalyze student-led ventures to solve some of the world’s most critical problems. Specifically, this year’s finalists are aiming to make progress in the categories of Education Innovation, Affordable Health, Energy and the Environment, Economic Development and Sustainable Employment, and, for the first time, Food and Agriculture.

More than 145 student teams applied in this year’s challenge, compared to 107 applications last year. A committee of 68 industry-expert judges, co-chaired by Provost Alan M. Garber and Professor Margo I. Seltzer from the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, selected this year’s 10 finalists.

This year’s finalist teams and their projects are:

Aegis — the “Waze of Security” in high-crime, low-transparency cities, it empowers citizens and businesses to make everyday decisions.

Astraeus Technologies — delivering the L-CARD, a low-cost lung cancer screening test leveraging radio frequency identification (RFID) tags and a smartphone.

Girls Health Champions — an initiative that trains adolescent girls globally as peer health educators and health leaders.

gomangocreates a network of intelligent refrigerated boxes, which helps the developing world move its perishable goods affordably.

immersion analytics — a dynamic hospital surveillance system and institutional marketplace for essential clinical tasks.

InspiringI — develops design thinking programs for India’s college grads.

Memora Health — a Web platform for health care organizations that improves preventive care management and monitors treatment progress.

Parachute Teachers — addresses the substitute teacher shortage by tapping into the talents of local artists and matching them with schools in need of substitutes through an online marketplace.

SurgiBox — aims to improve access to safe, aseptic surgery in settings lacking standard surgical facilities, while making operations safer and less cumbersome for healthcare providers.

Welcome Home — provides middle­-income renters with simple, social housing, which counteracts the urban divide caused by exorbitant rents.

The President’s Challenge finalists will receive $5,000 in seed money, will be mentored by i-lab advisers and alumni who are experts in the focus industries, and will have access to programming provided by the Harvard Innovation Labs to help them further their entrepreneurial ideas.

On April 25, Faust will announce the grand prize winners at the President’s Challenge Demo Day. The winners will share the $100,000 award. In addition to the grand prize winners, three runner-up teams will also be announced.

Last year’s challenge winner, RapidSOS, went on to raise $5 million in venture funding in the summer of 2015. Other past recipients of the President’s Challenge prize include venture-backed companies Mark43 and Vaxess Technologies.

The President’s Challenge is one of three challenges that is being overseen by the Harvard Innovation Labs.

“The finalists for this year’s President’s Challenge not only represent the best of Harvard’s entrepreneurial and innovative spirit, but have also put forth solutions that could enrich our culture and our lives for generations to come,” said Jodi Goldstein, managing director of the Harvard Innovation Labs.

“Just as in years past, the President’s Challenge presents a unique opportunity for forward-thinking Harvard students to develop their venture ideas aimed at discovering solutions to some of the world’s most pressing issues, including economic development, affordable health, food systems, energy, and education innovation,” Goldstein said.

At 5:30 p.m. on April 25, the i-lab will present President’s Challenge Demo Day. The grand prize winners will share in the $100,000 award. Three runner-up teams will also be announced.