Innovation Labs revamps President’s Innovation Challenge

Image credit: Harvard Innovation Labs

3 min read

New initiatives, such as additional funding for winners, a new venue for finalists, and increased support for participants, are at the heart of efforts to continue to grow participation and access around the 2019 Harvard 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 impactful, real-world ventures. A record 460 teams from all 12 Harvard schools entered the 2018 competition — more than double the entries than the previous year.

“Every year we’ve seen a significant increase in applications to participate in the President’s Innovation Challenge, as well as growing interest from the Greater Boston innovation community in learning more about the innovators at Harvard,” said Jodi Goldstein, executive director at the Harvard Innovation Labs. “We look forward to elevating the 2019 President’s Innovation Challenge, with a focus on resourcing the transformational ideas that will have the biggest impact on the world.”

For the eighth annual Challenge, Harvard is awarding an additional $100,000 as part of the new Launch Lab X track, and adding a $10,000 Ingenuity Award for the most creative and impactful ideas with the potential to drive world-changing innovation. This brings the total prize money to $410,000, which is funded entirely by a gift from The Bertarelli Foundation. President’s Innovation Challenge finalists will also have the opportunity to present their work in front of a larger number of people from the business and innovation community. For the first time, the President’s Innovation Challenge Showcase and Awards Ceremony will take place in Klarman Hall, the 1,000-people convening space at Harvard Business School.

Harvard Innovation Labs. Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff Photographer

In addition to increasing funding and community access, the Harvard Innovation Labs is creating more programming designed to encourage students to enter the President’s Innovation Challenge, ranging from broad informational sessions to workshops on how to submit a strong entry.

“The Harvard Innovation Labs uses inputs rather than outputs to measure success. We believe if we are able to encourage as many students as possible to enter the Challenge, as we have in previous years, we will see incredible results,” added Goldstein.

The 2018 winners of the President’s Innovation Challenge include PionEar, a company that is revolutionizing the treatment of ear infections; STEMgem for its device toolkits 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.

“Many President’s Innovation Challenge participants, finalists, and winners have gone on to have incredible impacts on the world,” said Chris Colbert, managing director of the Harvard Innovation Labs. “The aim of this competition is to provide students with the resources they need to grow their ideas at their earliest stages, and we see previous participants’ success as an indicator of this competition’s impact.”

To learn more about the 2019 President’s Innovation Challenge, visit