2020 President's Innovation Challenge

NOTICE: We recently experienced technical difficulties with our application platform, Slideroom. We have officially extended the deadline – applications will now be accepted until 1/6 at 11:59 AM EST. If you have any questions, please email i-lab@harvard.edu.

Transform Passion into Possibility

The President’s Innovation Challenge is a call to action for Harvard students passionate about developing ideas that make a difference. It celebrates what we can accomplish through collaboration, ingenuity, and rigorous exploration. And it’s a challenge to imagine all the ways we can do good, better.


There are two ways to get involved in the President’s Innovation Challenge!

1 Apply to become a President’s Innovation Challenge Semi-Finalist

What is this?

  • The Spring Venture Program at the Harvard Innovation Lab supports Harvard students pursuing projects that push the boundaries of their fields. Accepted teams gain exclusive access to a range of helpful resources beyond what we offer to all students throughout the school year.
  • Students who demonstrate validation of their venture can apply to become President’s Innovation Challenge Semi-Finalists. These ventures are placed in a select “accelerator” program within the Spring Venture Program that’s designed to increase their progress and prepare them for the PIC finalist application. Semi-finalists are eligible to win one of the President’s Innovation Challenge Grand Prizes.

This is for you if:

  • Your venture has developed beyond the initial stages and you can demonstrate validity for your idea from third parties, especially customers.  Such validation may include ​market traction, revenue, customer research that validates your value proposition, and/or raised funds from professional investors.

How do I apply?

  • To apply to the semi-finalist path, you must complete ALL three sections of the application. So, in addition to filling out your demographic information and uploading two short videos describing your project, you must also fill out the third section that outlines the progress you have made on your venture.
    Apply Now

2 Apply to join the 12-week Spring Venture Program and automatically enter the running for an Ingenuity Award.

This is for you if:

  • You are actively trying to solve a problem and want help developing the solution into a venture. You may not have a strong value proposition, have made any progress, or know the right solution to your issue yet.

How it works?

  • For the second time in the history of the President’s Innovation Challenge, we’re giving out $10,000 in Ingenuity Awards to support and reward students who can describe a groundbreaking idea that will improve our world.

How do I apply?

  • Simply fill out the first section of the Spring Venture Program application and answer two short video questions in the second section.
    Apply Now


A total of $510,000 in Bertarelli Foundation Prizes are awarded to grand prize and runner-up winners in each venture track of the President’s Innovation Challenge, including the alumni venture tracks.

PIC Semi-Finalist Path An intense program designed to accelerate the progress of your venture in preparation for the PIC Grand Prize competition. Open Track
Life Science
Social Impact
Life Lab (Alumni)
Launch Lab X (Alumni)
Grand: $75,000/track
Runner-Up: $25,000/track
12-week Spring Venture Program Programming to help any serious student get their venture off on the right foot and make progress throughout the spring term. N/A Ingenuity: $10,000

The President’s Innovation Challenge prizes are made possible by a generous gift from the Bertarelli Foundation, Ernesto Bertarelli (MBA 1993).

Apply Now


January 6 – Extended deadline
President’s Innovation Challenge Application due online.

Mid to late January
Decisions sent to applicants.

Late March
Applicants may update their applications to reflect progress on their ventures and ideas.

Early April
Five finalists are chosen for each track competing for President’s Innovation Challenge Grand Prizes. All teams not selected as Finalists are still eligible to compete for Ingenuity Awards and continue participating in the Venture Program.

Early May
Student finalists competing for President’s Innovation Challenge Awards pitch their venture live to a panel of experts who will decide Grand Prize and Runner-Up winners.

May 13
The five finalists in each track — including the alumni tracks — pitch their ventures before a live audience.