The Harvard Innovation Labs recently announced the 15 finalists for this year’s President’s Innovation Challenge, drawing from a pool that more than doubled last year’s team entries. The 2018 challenge presents Harvard students with an opportunity to engage with pressing social issues and turn their ideas into impactful, real-world ventures.
“Every spring for the last six years, I have had the pleasure of learning about students’ inspiring ideas for improving people’s lives,” said Harvard President Drew Faust. “There is an ever-growing desire among our students to collaborate on potential solutions to complex problems, and I look forward to seeing interest in innovation and cross-disciplinary problem-solving continue to thrive at the University for many years to come.”
This year, more than 400 teams entered business plans in the competition, doubling the 2017 record of 200 teams. The finalists were selected by a committee of more than 100 judges with a wide array of industry experiences.
This year’s finalists are:
Social Impact or Cultural Enterprise Track
Coding It Forward — Created the Civic Digital Fellowship, a fully-funded technology internship program for federal agencies that exposes the next generation of digital leaders to public service.
Jump Credit — Helping nonprofits provide free, instant, personalized credit advice to low-income, economically vulnerable clients.
Mozambique School Lunch Initiative — Investing in in community-owned school lunch programs to improve childhood nutrition in Mozambique.
OZÉ — Empowering small business to make data-driven decisions that improve their performance.
Trey — Enabling future college athletes to develop their leadership potential, so they can use sports as a springboard to lifetime success.
Health or Life Science Track
AUGMENTx — Using augmented reality and digital health to provide year-round access to immersive rehab therapy.
PionEar — Revolutionizing the treatment of ear infections with the first implant that efficiently delivers drugs directly to the middle and inner ear.
synXpro — Engineering symbiotic bacteria from the human microbiome for sustained, tissue-targeted delivery of protein biologics.
Theraoptix — A contact lens capable of delivering medication directly to the eye.
X-Cor Therapeutics — Developing the first low-flow extracorporeal CO2 removal (ECCOR) circuit that enables cheaper and safer ECCOR therapy for ICU and outpatient patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Aday Technologies — A marketplace that encompasses recruiting, training, scheduling, and managing blue-collar hourly workers.
FinWeGo — A workplace financial wellness platform that helps employers provide affordable, convenient and responsible credit to their employees.
STEMgem — Device toolkits that allow socially motivated learners to build real, useful, and relevant technology.
Zoba — Using machine learning to predict human behavior in cities to help organizations make decisions about locational strategy, resource allocation, and risk.
ZY4 — Creating the world’s first patented, post-quantum encryption technology and distributed cryptographic ledger.
Winners will be announced during the President’s Innovation Challenge Award Ceremony on May 2. The winners will share $310,000 in Bertarelli Foundation Prizes. 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 UrSure, which helps protect vulnerable patients from HIV; Upsolve, a bankruptcy filing solution; and Lightmatter, which is developing an optical AI accelerator and framework.
“What impresses me most about this year’s finalists is their vision,” said Jodi Goldstein, executive director of the Harvard Innovation Labs. “Whether they’re working in a newer field like blockchain, or addressing medical challenges that have existed since the beginning of time, all of the teams are bringing fresh, inventive thinking to issues facing humanity.”