2021 President’s Innovation Challenge

As we step forward,
a vision for what’s possible expands.

Innovation begins when we recognize a problem. How do we prevent the next pandemic? Protect forests from wildfires? Design a healthcare system that prioritizes quality of life? Create anti-racist AI? How do we approach inevitable new problems from a place of humility and compassion? While our challenges are daunting, they are also opportunities to draw from our shared hope to come together for a future beyond what we can imagine.

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 approach new questions from a place of empathy?

What futures become more clear when we align with our humanity?

When do we adapt and respond, and when do we reconstruct?

As we share our ideas,
we begin to share our future.

Build Something Bold

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. Along the way, they’re not only challenged to better understand individual and community needs, but they become better leaders, colleagues, and human beings. Semi-finalist 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.

A Look Back at 2020’s Winning Ventures

Are you curious to learn more about the 2021 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.

Get Inspired

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.

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!

Get Inspired

Ingenuity Awards

Three early stage teams in the Venture Program Start It cohort were selected to win Ingenuity Awards this year.

Find out who won!


On May 5, 2021, from 5-6 pm EST, gather with us to celebrate the progress our Finalist ventures have made as they make more human futures possible. At this fully virtual, interactive event, we’ll discover which teams have won a share of $510,000 in prizes from the Bertarelli Foundation!

Act 3 - More Human Futures