The President’s Innovation Challenge (PIC) is an invitation to Harvard students and select alumni & affiliate-led ventures to propel their ideas forward. The PIC is also an opportunity to win a share of $510,000 in non-dilutive funding, made possible by a gift from the Bertarelli Foundation.
Throughout the six-month process, teams develop their ventures with robust support from the Harvard Innovation Labs.
The President’s Innovation Challenge is an opportunity to move toward a future that’s more connected, more creative, more human. It’s an invitation to develop solutions that can change the narrative. It’s also an invitation to our wider community to discover what’s possible when we lead the work of making life better for the next generation.
Apply by January 5, 2022 to join the PIC this spring!
As possibilities expand, our futures brighten.
When you apply to the 14-week Spring Venture Program at the Harvard Innovation Labs, you can also opt to apply to the President’s Innovation Challenge. Teams that qualify for the PIC have made progress on their venture beyond the initial ideation stages. They likely have gained market traction such as customers, users, signed partnerships, and/or funds from professional investors.
Student ventures are placed in one of three tracks:
Venture teams currently in LLX GEO and the Pagliuca Harvard Life Lab are automatically eligible to participate in the President’s Innovation Challenge. A selection of these Harvard alumni and affiliate-led ventures will be invited to apply for the PIC. For more information, please see your program administrator.
Teams accepted to the President’s Innovation Challenge benefit from all the resources at the i-lab, including 1:1 staff advising tailored to your industry, matched mentorship, expert office hours, and networking opportunities. Finalist teams also gain valuable experience pitching to judges.
Throughout the spring, we will showcase many of our teams through social media and other editorial outlets. Teams chosen as Finalists will be invited to participate in the Awards Ceremony attended by the global innovation and investment communities.
The President’s Innovation Challenge is an opportunity to win a share of $510,000 in prize money, generously provided by the Bertarelli Foundation.
The conversations you have and the relationships you build are vital toward your progress as a team. Participating fully in a community of passionate entrepreneurs facing similar challenges can buoy you through successes, help you through frustrations, and support you well beyond the PIC experience.
Accepted venture teams are placed into the track that is most appropriate for their venture. Each track awards $100,000 total in Bertarelli Foundation prize money.
|January||1. You apply! PIC applications for students are due by 11:59 pm EST on January 5, 2022.
2. The PIC selection committee evaluates which stage your venture has reached.
|February||3. PIC Semi-Finalist and Venture Program acceptances are sent out to teams.
4. Semi-Finalists update their applications with new milestones and traction for the Finalist selection.
|April||5. Judges select 15 student Finalist teams (five in each track) to pitch for the awards.
6. Finalists pitch live in front of a judging panel who will determine the grand prize and runner-up awards for each track.
|May||7. At the President’s Innovation Challenge Awards Ceremony on May 5, 2022, grand prize and runner-up awards are announced for the $75K and $25K Bertarelli Foundation prizes in each track.|
Schedule a 15 minute appointment with an i-lab advisor to ask application questions, determine which track is best for your team, understand the application process, and chat through anything else PIC!
You can also…
The PIC is an opportunity to build something necessary and new, and be inspired by what’s possible. It’s also a chance to join an inspired and inspiring community of innovators who care as much about the questions as the solutions. Take the challenge to discover how more human futures are possible!
|I’m ready to apply!|
Apply by January 5 to be considered for the 2022 President’s Innovation Challenge.
The President’s Innovation Challenge is a call to action for matriculated, degree-seeking Harvard students across all 13 Harvard schools—including undergraduates, graduates, postdoctoral fellows, and clinical fellows.
Applications are due January 5, 2022 at 11:59 pm EST.
The President’s Innovation Challenge is open to venture teams led by at least one matriculated, degree-seeking Harvard student, including undergraduates, graduates, postdoctoral fellows, and clinical fellows. While we encourage collaboration with entrepreneurs, scientists, and industry executives—and welcome participants outside of the Harvard community—we require that a Harvard student be a founder, committed leader, and integral part of each venture team.
Qualifying ventures for the PIC have made progress on their venture beyond the initial ideation stages. Doing so may mean they have gained market traction, such as customers, users, signed partnerships, and/or funds raised from professional investors. We understand that all teams are in the growth stage, and as a part of that process, we recommend that students look at past winners to see examples of teams that have been successful in the President’s Innovation Challenge.
Student teams accepted into the President’s Innovation Challenge will be supported in their journey by the i-lab’s Venture Program, which provides 1-1 advising, expert resources, and help with pitch coaching, as well as a vibrant community of entrepreneurs. Ventures at an early stage (who have not yet gained market traction) are still invited to apply for the Venture Program, which provides tailored resources to help launch and advance your venture.
Got questions about the President’s Innovation Challenge? Look no further! If your question isn’t answered below, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If I am selected to participate in the President’s Innovation Challenge, am I also in the Spring Venture Program?
Yes, teams selected for the President’s Innovation Challenge develop their ventures throughout the spring within the Venture Program, which is designed to support you as you grow your venture.
What happens if I apply for the President’s Innovation Challenge and my venture is not selected to be a semi-finalist?
If your venture is not selected for the PIC, it doesn’t mean that your idea isn’t incredible, or that you aren’t likely to succeed. The PIC is for venture teams that have made a certain amount of progress. If you don’t have enough traction yet to join the PIC, we encourage you to participate in our Spring Venture Program to take advantage of our tailored programming and office hours, which can help take your venture to your next milestone.
What if I only want to apply to the Spring Venture Program?
We encourage you to apply to the i-lab Spring Venture Program by January 5, 2022. It’s all one application. Just indicate that you are not interested in the PIC and complete the other sections of the application. If your venture is still too early in its development (e.g., you are focused on defining your offering and validating your customers), we are still eager to support you!
If my venture is selected to participate in the President’s Innovation Challenge but ultimately doesn’t get chosen as a finalist, what happens then?
You remain in the Spring Venture Program and can continue developing your venture with the enthusiastic support and resources of the i-lab community.
If I win an award at the President’s Innovation Challenge celebration, does the money have to be used in any specific way?
You decide what to do with your prize money! It is also non-dilutive, which means you don’t have to give up any equity in your venture to accept the award.
Do I have to attend the Awards Ceremony in May to receive a Bertarelli Foundation Award?
It’s highly encouraged, but not mandatory, to attend the awards ceremony on May 5 to receive a grand prize or runner-up prize.
Innovation depends on connection. And true connection happens when we get comfortable with being uncomfortable, reaching out, and tapping into the collective power of the people around us. When you connect with a community of passionate, diverse, creative people, you can build much, much more than you could have imagined alone. The President’s Innovation Challenge is an invitation to move the world forward together.
Applications for the 2022 PIC are now closed. Please follow along with us this spring as we feature our inspiring teams!
is our strength.
|January||• Students apply! PIC applications for students closed on January 5, 2022.
• PIC student Semi-Finalists are selected, notified of their acceptance and track, and announced.
|February||• Semi-Finalists work on their ventures and update their application with new milestones and traction for the Finalist selection.|
|March||• External judges review applications. The judges help select 5 Finalists in each PIC track.
• PIC Finalists are selected and announced.
|April||• Finalists refine their pitches, work on their pitch decks, and prepare to pitch live to a panel of judges.
• Judges determine which teams will receive the $75,000 and $25,000 Bertarelli Foundation Awards in each track.
|May||• At the President’s Innovation Challenge Awards Ceremony on May 5, 2022, we will announce the $75K and $25K Bertarelli Foundation awards for each of the five tracks.|
Current full-time Harvard students were invited to opt into the President’s Innovation Challenge when they applied for the 14-week Spring Venture Program. Teams selected as Semi-Finalists had made progress on their venture, meaning that they likely have paid customers or partners, recruited a user base, or have mapped out a path for commercialization. From over 400 applications this year (our highest number ever!), less than 1/3 of the teams were selected to become Semi-Finalists by the PIC selection committee.
Successful teams frequently apply to the PIC multiple times, using the feedback they receive from this process to make meaningful progress during the following year. If you were not selected as a Semi-Finalist in 2022, we encourage you to apply next year!
Semi-Finalist teams will be judged by a panel of over 200 PIC Semi-Finalist judges, a diverse mix of entrepreneurs, operators, funders, non-profit experts, and specialists. The judges evaluate applications based on their experience, specialty, and industry expertise. In addition to scoring and helping to select the Finalist teams in each track, PIC judges also provide critical feedback, which many past teams have found invaluable toward refining their offering and iterating on their venture.
Check back here at the end of February to discover and get to know all our Semi-Finalist ventures!