President's Innovation Challenge


The President’s Innovation Challenge is a call to action. It’s a call to innovation and entrepreneurship. It’s a challenge to the entire Harvard community of students and postdocs to engage with pressing issues facing the world and to explore turning their ideas into impactful, real-world ventures.

The Challenge is also a competition and an opportunity to win funding for your venture. Venture proposals will be evaluated by a panel of professional judges, with more than $300,000 in seed funding awarded to the winning teams at the end of the spring semester.

$75,000 first prizes and $25,000 runner-up prizes are awarded in each of three tracks:

  • Social Impact or Cultural Enterprise
  • Health or Life Sciences
  • Open (for ideas that transcend categories)


September – December

Get involved: schedule advising sessions, attend workshops, refine your idea, build or join a team.

November 6

Attend the President’s Innovation Challenge Open House to learn everything you need to know about the Challenge, the process, the application, and the resources available to you throughout.

Oh, and continue to meet with advisors and others to get the most out of the resources we offer.

November 14

Check out the Pitch, Mix, and Match event to either pitch your idea and gain team members or, if you’re not interested in starting your own venture, to join a team that you think is destined for success.

January 2

Submit your application to the President’s Innovation Challenge.

Late January

Learn if you have been selected as a semifinalist.

Early March

Finalist applications due. Semifinalists submit new application for consideration as a finalist.

Late March

Learn if you are one of the 15 finalists (5 are selected in each track).


Make your finalist pitch at the awards ceremony to win a piece of $300,000 in prize money.


The President’s Innovation Challenge is open to any team that includes a founder who is a full-time, degree-seeking Harvard undergraduate or graduate student, postdoc, or clinical fellow. Teams may include non-Harvard members along with the Harvard founder.

Students may enter the competition either as founders or team leaders pursuing their own venture ideas, or they may sign on to help as a team member.

Students seeking to join existing teams will have an opportunity to network with founders at our popular Pitch, Mix, and Match session on Nov. 14.

Prize Money

$75,000 – Grand Prize (for each track)

$25,000 – Runner-up (for each track)

$10,000 – Crowd Favorite

Winners of the President’s Innovation Challenge will be awarded Bertarelli Foundation Prizes, made possible by a gift from the Bertarelli Foundation, Ernesto Bertarelli (MBA 1993).

I’m a student. Should I apply to the VIP or President’s Innovation Challenge?

This year, they will be rolled up as one offering. Anyone who is accepted into the Spring VIP will automatically be accepted as a semi-finalist in the President’s Innovation Challenge.

That means that in the Fall, interested students should be engaging with the i-lab’s workshops, staff advisors, and EiRs as much as possible to prepare for the Spring VIP.

The Fall Session is effectively a runway for teams and individuals to explore their ideas and prepare for the Spring VIP Session and the chance to compete in the $300,000 President’s Innovation Challenge.

Find out more about the VIP.


Important Links



Rules & Eligibility