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President Drew Faust announced today the launch of the President’s Challenge 2013, the second year that she has sponsored a contest among all University students to compete for financial and logistical support for their solutions to the world’s most pressing social problems. Last year’s winner, Vaxess Technologies, received $70,000 to support the student founders’s research into scaling up access to a new technology that uses a protein found in silk to preserve routine vaccines without refrigeration. The start-up company was also given space in Harvard’s Innovation Lab, two expert mentors, and full access to the resources of the lab through August 2012.

This year the contest will focus on social and cultural entrepreneurship. As Faust wrote in announcing the challenge, “The arts are increasingly prevalent in the cognitive life at Harvard, and the introduction of this category—in addition to learning, energy and environment, health, and disaster preparation and relief—expands the ways for student teams to harness their interests and put them into action.”

Student submissions are due February 3; 10 finalists will be chosen, and each given $5,000 in seed money to develop their ideas further during the spring semester. The overall winner and as many as three runners-up will be named before the end of the academic year.

The full text of Faust’s letter appears below:

 

Dear Members of the Harvard Community:

I am delighted to announce today the launch of the second President’s Challenge, which broadens the opportunity for all students and postdoctoral candidates to apply their passion and creative ideas toward meaningful contributions to the world around them.

The President’s Challenge for social entrepreneurship was created last year in conjunction with the Harvard Innovation Lab to encourage students from across the University to find important, high-impact solutions to the world’s most pressing social problems.  Last year’s grand prize winner was Vaxess Technologies, a company working to commercialize new technology that uses silk to stabilize vaccines and eliminate the need for refrigeration in transport and delivery.

The President’s Challenge 2013 will focus on social and cultural entrepreneurship.  The arts are increasingly prevalent in the cognitive life at Harvard, and the introduction of this category—in addition to learning, energy and environment, health, and disaster preparation and relief—expands the ways for student teams to harness their interests and put them into action.

The highlights of the program, co-chaired by Provost Alan Garber and Professor Bill Sahlman, include workshops, networking events, the selection of ten finalist teams (with awards of $5,000 each to help them develop their ideas), a “Demo Day,” and the selection of a grand prize winner and up to three runners-up.  These teams will share a $100,000 prize to help them make their plans a reality.  The grand prize team also will be awarded work space in the i-lab.

You can learn more about the timeline and requirements on the i-lab’s website.  We invite you to convene at the i-lab on October 18 at 6:00 p.m., where you will meet like-minded students interested in leveraging each other’s strengths and building a project together.  You may register for the event here.

The President’s Challenge is yet another opportunity for students to translate ideas into action.  I am looking forward to following the progress of the initiative alongside Harvard’s friends and alumni, and I encourage you to get involved.

 Sincerely,

Drew Faust