Women from the Studio speaking.

The Spring Venture Orientation had team members meet and share their project’s misson. Change the Tune: The Studio founder Charli Kemp (left) spoke with April Finlayson.

Photos by Mark James

Campus & Community

President’s Innovation Challenge taps students’ ingenuity

4 min read

Twenty-five finalists named, will be awarded prizes totaling $510,000 in virtual ceremony

Developing a device that can provide continuous ventilation to patients, affordable solar technologies, and real-time incentives for healthier lifestyles are just three of the 25 projects named finalists in the 2020 President’s Innovation Challenge, the Harvard Innovation Labs announced today.

The annual competition calls on the Harvard community to work on compelling solutions to some of the world’s most pressing problems.

“In a given year, the teams competing in the President’s Innovation Challenge represent the extraordinary talent that exists across the University,” said Harvard President Larry Bacow. “This year has pulled our finalists physically apart, but the wide range of problems to which they have applied their knowledge and skills gives me great hope. I look forward to a future in which their work with one another — and with communities around the world — resumes and thrives.”

During the President’s Innovation Challenge Virtual Awards Ceremony on May 21, winners will take home Bertarelli Foundation Prizes totaling $510,000. The awards consist of five grand prizes of $75,000, five awards of $25,000 for runner-up ventures, and the President’s Innovation Challenge “Ingenuity Awards,” which will give a total of $10,000 to teams advancing ideas with the potential to be world-changing, even if they are not yet fully formed ventures.

Woman speaking to two men.
LeverEdge’s chief of staff Linda Zhou at the orientation.

“COVID-19 has upended life as we know it, and I’m incredibly impressed with how all of the 2020 President’s Innovation Challenge semi-finalists continue to move their ideas forward during this extraordinary time,” said Matt Segneri, Bruce and Bridgitt Evans Executive Director of the Harvard Innovation Labs. “This year’s finalists share a commitment to improving the lives of millions of people, and we look forward to celebrating their accomplishments during a virtual gathering that will be both immersive and inspiring.”

The 25 finalists are included in five categories.

Social Impact or Cultural Enterprise Track

Change the Tune: The Studio: An innovative and accessible summer program model providing impactful learning opportunities for youth and innovators.
Coding it Forward: A 501(c)(3) nonprofit empowering the next generation of technology leaders to create social change.
H2OK Innovations: Empowering communities with knowledge that will help them sustainably access clean water, through AI and IoT (Internet of Things).
Immigrants Like Us: A legal aid nonprofit preparing immigration documents using an intuitive web platform.
Shamsina: Providing access to affordable solar technologies for energy-poor communities.

Health or Life Sciences Track

Boston Meats: Sustainably and ethically growing animal-free meat.
Concerto Biosciences: Discovering functional microbial communities for human therapeutics using a patented, high-throughput screening platform.
Overjet: Using AI to analyze dental clinical data and help payers and providers improve patient care and profitability.
Umbulizer: Developing a reliable, low-cost, and portable device that can provide continuous ventilation to patients.
Visionairy Health: Developing an automated chest X-ray screening solution to reduce radiologists’ workloads and increase their efficiency.

Open Track

Acelab: Empowering ACE professionals to make responsible choices through preconstruction intelligence.
Fractal: Streaming GPU-powered Windows 10 desktops to any macOS or Windows device.
Leveredge Association: Using group buying power to negotiate down loan rates.
Shelly Xu Design: The first zero-waste fashion startup with original designs that are more accessible, versatile, and fully zero-waste.
Tang: A mobile app allowing Filipino overseas workers to send money home and allowing the receiver to use the same app to e-pay.

Launch Lab X (Alumni) Track

Bensen: Helping restaurants take more orders by automatically answering the phone as well as taking orders by text message and voice assistant.
OZÉ: A platform connecting small business owners in Africa to data, cash, clients, and each other.
Smoodi: Making people happier and healthier with on-demand, fresh and customized smoothies through a proprietary self-cleaning blending unit.
Surround Insurance: Building customer-centric, technology-enabled insurance products to serve modern consumers.
Vincere Health: Using real-time incentives and behavioral nudges to motivate people to live healthier lives.

Life Lab Track

Accure Health: Developing a digital diagnostic platform to enable fast, affordable and highly accurate diagnostic solutions at the point of care.
Day Zero Diagnostics: Combining genome sequencing and machine learning to modernize infectious disease diagnosis and treatment.
I2O Therapeutics: Developing safe and effective oral formulations of therapies traditionally limited to injections.
SanaRx: Leveraging bacterial genetic engineering to serve patients with orphan diseases of the alimentary tract.
Tectonic Therapeutic: Transforming the discovery of novel drugs addressing targets in the G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCR) family.