2021 President’s Innovation Challenge

Our desire for a better future
gives us direction.

What does it mean to be more human? We may each have our own answer. But we experience our shared humanity when we pursue work that brings out the best in us, individually and collectively. We experience it when we take action against the problems that plague us and imagine another world beyond our current solutions. As we continue to work on tough, deep challenges and tackle fresh ones, we also strive to become more empathetic and inclusive.

This is particularly evident throughout the President’s Innovation Challenge, where ideas grow into ventures that change our world for the better.

I’m ready to explore!

How do we build a future that’s more courageous and more connected?

How can we show up in more caring and creative ways?

What do we retain, and what do we remake?

Hope sustains us as we move from uncertainty to action.

Build Something Extraordinary

The President’s Innovation Challenge (PIC) is a call to action for students and select alumni pursuing ventures that push the boundaries of their fields. Throughout the spring, accepted ventures develop with comprehensive support from the Harvard Innovation Labs Venture Program. Along the way, they’re challenged not only to better understand individual and community needs, but to become better leaders, colleagues, and human beings. In May, finalists compete for $510,000 in prizes, funded entirely by a generous gift from the Bertarelli Foundation.

Though applications for the 2021 PIC are now closed, we invite you to follow along throughout the challenge as our venture teams prepare for the awards ceremony on May 5, 2021.

  • Early February – PIC Student Semi-Finalists announced. Teams develop their ventures with the support of the Venture Program through programming, mentorship, and community. Teams continue to revise/update their PIC application.
  • End of February – Event for students interested in joining or supporting a PIC team
  • March 2 – Deadline for PIC Semi-Finalists to update their application for Round 2 judging.
  • March – Round 2 Judging begins. External judges help to select the top 15 PIC Student Finalists.
  • April 1 – PIC Student Finalists announced​.
  • End of April – Final Judging. Student Finalists in each track pitch to external judges.
  • May 5 – PIC Awards Celebration. $75,000 Grand Prize and $25,000 Runner-Up Bertarelli Foundation prize winners announced for each track.
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.
Open
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.

Meet the teams behind last year’s winning ventures!

Are you curious to learn more about last year’s President’s Innovation Challenge finalists and winners?

Get Energized for Change

Great ideas inspire even better ones when we share, collaborate, and cheer each other on. Whether they’re tackling fashion industry waste, the financial burden of higher education, or the limitations of injection-only drugs, our ventures’ stories will inspire you, too! Check out a selection of our initiatives below.

It’s Really About People

Women Led Wednesdays

Meet the women innovators behind some of the incredible ventures in the i-lab community. Learn about what they’re building and hear their unique perspectives.

Read more

Say Hi

What inspires our community members? Get to know the people at the i-lab as they say “hello!” to you and each other. Stay tuned to learn more!

Launching in February

Venture Profiles

Discover the founders behind some of the most exciting ventures developing within the i-lab community, and making a difference in the world!

Read more

Ingenuity Awards

Got an idea for a venture that could make a difference? Your early-stage idea could win you a $5,000 Ingenuity Award!

Launching in March

What’s around the corner for the President’s Innovation Challenge?

Stay connected with us via our newsletter to stay up-to-date on all things i-lab, and especially the PIC! And don’t forget to put May 5, 2021 on your calendar, when we’ll gather as a community to discover which teams will win $510,000 in Bertarelli Foundation prizes at the President’s Innovation Challenge Awards Ceremony!

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Act 2 - More Human