2021 President’s Innovation Challenge

Curiosity starts us on the path.

The President’s Innovation Challenge invites you to dive into your curiosity to discover new solutions to our most urgent problems. It’s a chance to join a community that is passionate about change as we work toward a more human, shared future. It’s also an opportunity to win a share of $510,000, funded entirely by a gift from the Bertarelli Foundation.

The 2021 President’s Innovation Challenge has now concluded! We welcome you to discover the winners and watch highlights from the celebration.

Yes, I’m curious!

How do we maintain energy while solving problems that are constantly shifting?

How do we kindle the connections that spark new ideas?

How do we stay curious as we build a new path into the future?

Hope sustains us, but
curiosity drives us forward.

Create Something Incredible

The President’s Innovation Challenge (PIC) is a call to action for Harvard students and select alumni pursuing ventures that push the boundaries of their fields.

Who is ready for the President’s Innovation Challenge?

Teams That Have Made Substantive Progress on Their Venture

When ventures apply to the 12-week Spring Venture Program at the Harvard Innovation Labs, they can also opt to apply to the President’s Innovation Challenge. Teams that qualify for the PIC are actively building their venture beyond the initial stages. This may mean they have gained market traction, conducted customer research, and/or raised funds from professional investors.

Student ventures can choose to join one of three tracks:

  • Social Impact Track
  • Health & Life Sciences Track
  • Open Track, for ventures that transcend categories.

Details for Student Applicants

Teams in LLX GEO and the Pagliuca Harvard Life Lab

Venture teams in Launch Lab X GEO and the Pagliuca Harvard Life Lab are automatically eligible to participate in the President’s Innovation Challenge.

The President’s Innovation Challenge Tracks

Accepted venture teams enter the track that is most appropriate for their venture for specialized advising. Each track awards $100,000 total in Bertarelli Foundation prize money.


Social Impact
The Social Impact Track is open to teams that want to make our planet safer, more equitable, sustainable, and beautiful. The critical issues facing these fields range from the depletion of finite resources, to social equity, to helping artists and cultural traditions thrive.

Sub-categories include but are not limited to: arts, equity, education, environment, economic development, food, and sustainable agriculture.
Health & Life Sciences
The Health & Life Sciences Track is open to any team improving the efficacy of healthcare services, including therapeutics, devices, health systems, health IT, and data analytics. Projects may address a wide range of issues, from improving access to care to realizing the potential of personalized therapies.
The Open Track recognizes that great ideas can transcend categories and may include commercial enterprises. Greater economic opportunity also requires improvements in connectivity, infrastructure, and resource optimization.

Sub-categories include but are not limited to: sports, technology, security, consumer products, and virtual and augmented reality applications.
Launch Lab X GEO
Harvard’s Launch Lab X GEO accelerator supports alumni-led ventures across the globe that disrupt and reimagine their industries. LLX GEO participants in the President’s Innovation Challenge are automatically accepted as semi-finalists.
Life Lab
This category includes groundbreaking biotech and life-science startups founded by Harvard students, alumni, faculty, and postdoctoral scholars. Pagliuca Harvard Life Lab participants in the President’s Innovation Challenge are automatically accepted as semi-finalists.


Why Join the President’s Innovation Challenge?


Teams accepted to the challenge benefit from all the resources at the i-lab, including 1:1 staff advising tailored to your venture industry, matched mentorship, expert office hours, and networking opportunities. Teams that make the final round also gain valuable experience pitching to judges and honing their elevator pitch for a showcase.

Prize Money

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 grand prize winner of each track wins $75,000
  • The runner-up from each track wins $25,000.


Throughout the spring, we will showcase PIC teams on our social media accounts, highlighting your growth along your entrepreneurial journey. Teams that make the final round will also gain exposure via a PIC showcase attended by the global innovation and investment communities.


The conversations you have and the relationships you build are vital toward your success 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.

What’s around the corner at the Harvard Innovation Labs?

Want to stay in-the-know about upcoming events, newsmaking ventures, and the latest in entrepreneurship? Sign up for Press Thirteen, the Harvard Innovation Labs newsletter, celebrating innovators from all 13 schools. Our community is bold, curious, and unafraid to exit when the elevator opens on the 13th floor. Join us!

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The 2021 President’s Innovation Challenge concluded on May 5 with the winner announcements and awards celebration.

Curiosity starts us on the path towards a solution. Even as it keeps us focused on the way forward, it allows us to take in new information, challenge assumptions, and alter our direction when necessary. If curiosity is the fuel, action makes it possible.

Get to know the finalists!