Competition seeks big ideas from student innovators

Big Ideas, one of the nation’s oldest and most prestigious social impact contests, is accepting pre-proposals for this year’s competition.

An online information session will be held at 3 p.m. Wednesday. Pre-proposals are due by Nov. 16.

Big Ideas provides up to $300,000 directly to students each year for their groundbreaking initiatives. Armed with the training and seed funding provided by Big Ideas, student teams have gone on to secure over $150 million in additional funding for their for-profit, nonprofit, or hybrid ventures.

Several teams from UC Santa Cruz have been among the past winners of Big Ideas.

For many students, Big Ideas serves as the first step in turning a dream into a viable product, service, or organization. Undergraduate and graduate students receive valuable feedback, work with mentors at the top of their fields, and have multiple opportunities to expand their professional networks.

In the 2016–17 contest, Big Ideas is bringing back its eight categories from last year: Art & Social Change, Energy & Resource Alternatives, Financial Inclusion, Food Systems, Global Health, Improving Student Life, Information Technology for Society, and Scaling Up Big Ideas, for past winners only.

This year’s contest also features a brand new category: Hardware for Good. Spearheading this new and exciting partnership with the Autodesk Foundation, Big Ideas is helping leverage the “Hardware Revolution” for social benefit. In essence, the category is responding to a unique opportunity within today’s innovation space. 3D printing, CAD software and makerspaces have dramatically decreased the price of prototyping and manufacturing physical goods, creating more space for at-home entrepreneurs to develop hardware solutions. The opportunity to develop solutions for lower-resourced communities are endless, as hardware innovations can now be prototyped faster, cheaper, and more conveniently than ever.

Proposals submitted to the Hardware for Good category can encompass everything from wearable technologies and assistive technologies to novel devices that improve productivity, efficiency and safety for consumers, small business, industry, and the world.