finalists celebrate

The President’s Innovation Challenge finalists celebrate the announcement.

Photo by Mark James

Campus & Community

Rising to the Challenge

5 min read

Finalists named for annual President’s Innovation awards

The Harvard Innovation Labs recently announced the 20 finalists for this year’s President’s Innovation Challenge. The challenge brings the Harvard community together to engage with pressing issues facing the world and explore turning their ideas into ventures that will have real-life impact. Last year’s winners included PionEar, a company that is revolutionizing the treatment of ear infections; STEMgem, for its device tool kits that promise to bring the impact of tech innovation to STEM education; and OZÉ for creating a mobile app that helps small businesses in Africa improve their performance.

“The teams competing in this year’s President’s Innovation Challenge [PIC] represent the extraordinary talent that exists across the University,” said Harvard President Larry Bacow. “I am thrilled to see the wide range of problems to which our finalists have applied their knowledge and skills, and I look forward to learning more about their work and to announcing the winners in a few weeks.”

This year, the President’s Innovation Challenge attracted more than 400 teams from all 12 Harvard Schools. Finalists were selected from a committee of more than 100 judges with a wide array of industry experiences.

During the President’s Innovation Challenge showcase and award ceremony, scheduled for May 1 at Klarman Hall, attendees will have the opportunity to see all 20 finalists present their work. Bacow will give remarks after the showcase, and the event will conclude with the awards presentation. The winners will take home Bertarelli Foundation Prizes totaling $410,000, consisting of four grand prizes of $75,000, four awards of $25,000 for runner-up ventures, and the President’s Innovation Challenge Ingenuity Award, which will give $10,000 to an idea with the potential to be world-changing, even if it is not a fully formed venture.

“It’s incredible to see how much the President’s Innovation Challenge has grown since 2011, not just in the number of teams that apply to participate, but in the ambitiousness of their ideas,” said Jodi Goldstein, executive director of the Harvard Innovation Labs. “We look forward to welcoming 1,000 people from the Harvard community and beyond to this year’s PIC showcase and awards ceremony, where they will get to see firsthand how each of the finalists has the potential to impact the lives of millions.”

The President’s Innovation Challenge showcase and awards ceremony is open to the Boston community as well as all Harvard-affiliated students, alumni, faculty, and fellows. To register, visit

Below is a list of this year’s finalists.

Social Impact or Cultural Enterprise Track

Boost Finance: A financial data platform that empowers employers to expand smart cash transfers for a better future of work.

Coding It Forward: A 501(c)(3) nonprofit breaking down barriers with social impact technology, including with the Civic Digital Fellowship.

JustFix: Supporting tenants facing landlord harassment and neglected housing conditions with technology to build well-documented legal cases.

MDaaS Global: Building and operating modern, tech-enabled diagnostic centers to provide health care for Africa’s next billion citizens.

New Teachers Thriving: Providing training to help school districts retain some of the tens of thousands of first-year teachers who quit every year.

Health or Life Science Track

Flotherm: A clinically superior way to maintain normothermia during surgery that helps reduce postoperative complications and avoidable expenditure.

GC Therapeutics: Revolutionizing cell therapy by building a cell engineering platform that is 100 times faster and 10 times more efficient, enabling customized therapeutics tailored to target hard-to-cure diseases.

Kinnos: Color-changing disinfection technology that raises the standard of infection prevention to protect the lives of health care workers and patients.

Limax Biosciences: Developing a strong, stretchy, flexible hydrogel adhesive platform, based on bio-inspired materials, to seal wounds and promote healing throughout the body.

Longsleeve: Creating a non-DEET-based insect repellent that lasts up to three days with a single use, which could prevent millions of deaths.

Open Track

LeverEdge: Using group buying power to get lower loan rates for students.

ReThink: A patented app that detects online hate and gives users a second chance to reconsider posting or sending an offensive message. Delivering Amazon-quality artificial intelligence to business-to-business distributors that predicts what customers will buy, driving revenue growth and improving the customer experience.

MyToolBox: A labor marketplace for skilled blue-collar workers that provides a platform to search for jobs, manage licenses, and access basic financial services.

Voodles: Reinventing how kids eat veggies with a vegetable-based pasta.

Launch Lab X Track for Harvard Alumni

Jamber: Bringing back the joy of living by using science to reinvent everyday objects that can transform lives.

Legacy: Solving the 50 percent decline in male fertility by providing ways to analyze, boost, and freeze sperm without visiting a clinic.

Nilus: Building a sharing-economy model of food-waste rescue, where private drivers pick up food in edible condition and deliver it to community kitchens and shelters.

Sophya: Helping students learn better by leveraging computer vision and crowdsourced behavioral analysis of internet learners.

Zubale:  Transforming how companies engage with consumers across emerging markets.