Students hoping to improve fertility treatments and keep food from spoiling while it’s being shipped were among the winners of the Harvard Innovation Lab’s annual Deans’ Challenge competition.
The challenge asks teams of students to submit proposals that might solve specific issues within categories chosen by the university: cultural entrepreneurship, health and life sciences, innovation in sports, and food systems.
The event came on the heels of last week’s announcement of the winners of the President’s Challenge, which challenges students to solve particular global problems. The winner of that competition was RapidSOS, which aims to streamline emergency response with a mobile app directly integrated into current systems.
The Dean’s Challenge drew 161 proposals from across Harvard. The winners were chosen from a pool of 20 finalists, four for each category.
“The way I look at the challenges is that it’s like a big funnel,” i-Lab director Jodi Goldstein said. After the university announces the categories, students submit their proposals to solve different problems within the categories.
Throughout the semester, the students gain programming advice, mentorship opportunities, and form teams across different parts of the university. The teams develop their ideas and are eventually whittled down to finalists.
Each of the finalists received $5,000, and the winners were awarded different amounts of additional money depending on their needs and previous funding. The finalists and winners will also be part of a 12-week startup accelerator program in the i-Lab.
“It was really powerful to pull them all together for one night,” Goldstein said. “Incredible to see the diversity of ideas.”
Here are the winners of the 2015 Harvard i-Lab Dean’s Challenges:
Health and Life Sciences: LuminOva, which proposes monitoring the viability of embryos to increase in-vitro fertilization success rates, won $40,000.
Cultural Entrepreneurship: Ivory, a music education app that listens to students practicing their instruments and provides analysis and feedback about where to improve, $35,000.
Food System: Two winners here — Coolify, which is developing a micro cold-storage product keep food fresher while it’s being shipped, and FOCUS Foods, an urban aquaponics farm for fish and produce, each received $27,500.
Innovation in Sports: Nix, a biosensor sweat patch for athletes which informs them whether they have become dehydrated, won $40,000.