The 2017-2018 Application is Now Open!

Click here to access the  Prize application! The application period will close at 11:59pm on December 22nd, 2017.

Application Guidelines

  • Teams must comprise two or more full time college, university, or graduate students
  • Teams may not have received external development funding in excess of $10,000.  This limit excludes ordinary compensation paid to RAs, who may submit plans related to their work or research
  •  At least one team member must be available to participate in the final pitch showcase in Cambridge, MA on the evening of May 2, 2018

We Expect Submissions From: 

  • Students with ideas for products or processes which they would like to develop
  • Students with course-related projects which they believe to be worth expanding and possibly commercializing
  • Students working on research and seeking applications and development opportunities for their research

Plan Focus:

Plans must involve a new or innovative product, service, or process for, or directly related to, food and agribusiness. Examples of eligible ideas would include (but are not limited to) new or innovative:

  • Food products or brands, for retail, food service, or commercial or industrial use
  • Food or food service delivery mechanisms, including logistics systems
  • Food processing mechanisms
  • Food packaging products or methods
  • Methods of food preservation
  • Testing, storing, monitoring, or similar methods or products
  • Ways of enhancing, monitoring, or supporting food production
  • Tools or products for food production or mechanization
  • Ways of enhancing sustainability in food production, processing, distribution, or consumption
  •  Ways of monitoring, managing, or conserving resources (energy, water, etc) associated with food production
  • Products, software, technology, processes, or other commercial ideas associated with any of these 

Process & Timeline:

  • Interested teams will submit application forms by the 22nd of December 2017
  • A judging panel will review all submissions, and will select finalist teams.  Finalists will be notified by mid- January 2018
  • Each finalist team will be assigned a mentor
  •  Teams will develop their proposals into a full business plan, and will submit them by April 2018
  • Finalist teams will be invited to present their plans, in Cambridge MA, in May 2018
  • Final judging by a panel will occur at the competition
  • The top two plans will be identified, and prizes will be awarded ($15,000 & $10,000)

Frequently Asked Questions

What should the applicant teams look like?

Each team should include between 2 and 5 members, at least half of whom must be current graduate and/or undergraduate students from any US-based school. While non-students are welcome to join teams, the Innovation Prize is a student competition and we ask that teams keep this in mind when determining their members. Students from any school in the United States are welcome and encouraged to participate.

What information will my team need to provide in the application?

The first round application includes a list of team members and affiliations, a description of the team’s idea, the problem the idea is intended to resolve, the implementation process for the idea, disclosure of past funding awarded to the team for this idea (if applicable), and details about current or prior mentorship. Teams selected as finalists will be paired with a mentor to develop a business plan and pitch for the Awards Dinner in May 2018.

 What intellectual property information should I be aware of before submitting my application?

Teams must be aware of and in compliance with their institutions’ IP policies in order to participate in this competition, and will be asked to disclose in their application whether the technology upon which their proposal is based has any prior rights to it (i.e. from investors or previous competition sponsorship). Judges and mentors in the Innovation Prize are required to sign confidentiality agreements, and mentors are also required to sign additional conflict of interest forms to ensure that teams retain control of their technology.

  What are the deadlines?

The application period will close at 11:59pm on December 22nd, 2017.

How will mentors and teams be matched?

Teams will be asked to provide information on their application about the mentor skills and expertise they hope to secure for the mentorship stage of the competition.  This information, together with the rest of the application and mentor availability, will help the application review team determine the most suitable mentors for each team.

 I have a mentor in mind, will you help me reach out to them?

Teams may provide the names of desired mentors on the application, but we cannot guarantee that they will be matched with that mentor.  We encourage teams to describe the skills and experience they seek from a mentor rather than identify any individual.

 What is the mentor stage of the competition like?

Teams will be assigned to mentors based on their application. Mentors will be industry professionals with relevant experience/expertise. Mentors and teams will develop the team’s idea over the course of two months in preparation for the final deliverable submission. The frequency of team-mentor meetings, and the nature of the discussions, will be developed by both parties to suit the idea’s needs and requirements.

 What types of resources will be provided?

This Innovation Prize is intended to provide mentorship, a platform for teams to share their ideas and learn from one another, and prize money for the top three teams. No office space, travel funding, or additional materials will be provided to participants.

 What types of proposals are the judges looking for?

The judges welcome submissions for ideas at various stages of development, and across all aspects of food and agribusiness (e.g., waste, production, manufacturing, consumption, marketing, policies).  Given that this is a relatively new competition at MIT, we anticipate that most proposals will be for early-stage ideas, but we encourage teams to develop their ideas to the fullest possible extent prior to submitting their application so as to use the mentorship period most effectively.

 What are the prize amounts?

There are two prizes this year, one in the value of $15,000 (first place) and one in the value of $10,000 (second place).

 What are the final deliverables due?

The final deliverables will consist of a business plan and accompanying presentation.  Please check the timeline for the exact date.

 Who needs to be in attendance at the final presentation?

At least half of each team presenting their final presentation must be in attendance.  However, we encourage all members to attend, learn about other projects, meet like-minded individuals, and celebrate innovation in food and agribusiness.

If you still have questions, please email: food-ag-prize@mit.edu