IDEAS is MIT’s annual social innovation challenge and has been bringing MIT students together with mentors from industry, academia, and community organizations for nearly 20 years to tackle pressing social and environmental issues through innovation.

Form a team, develop your idea with IDEAS strong support system, and enter the challenge for a chance to receive a grant of up to $16,000 to launch your innovation!

We fund up to $70,000 across approximately 20 MIT student-led teams comprised of team members from all over the world. These teams are addressing entrenched global societal challenges. Awards range from $1,000 to $16,000 (finalists are automatically awarded $1,000 and will have the opportunity to secure one of three additional awards $7,500, $10,000 and $15,000)

What types of projects qualify for IDEAS?

We are looking for innovative devices, systems, and processes that benefit communities locally, nationally, or internationally. Throughout the academic year, we’ll work with you to help develop your project – from networking and mentorship events to reviewer feedback on initial scope statements, to targeted workshops to help you develop skills and approaches to strengthen your project.

Your IDEAS project can take place in the United States or around the world. Many projects relate to one or more of these sectors: water and sanitation; education and training; agriculture; health & medical; emergency & disaster relief; housing & transportation; energy & environment; mobile devices & communication; and finance & entrepreneurship.  Teams must demonstrate that their project has a strong community service/social impact focus to benefit an underserved community.

What are the key program dates and deadlines?

There are two proposal submission deadlines: Sunday, October 27, 2019, and Tuesday, February 11, 2020.

Applications are submitted through Fluidreview .

  • Info Session (Sept. 18 in Lobdell) – This event features a panel of stakeholders across the IDEAS program including online reviewers, judges, grantee teams, facilitators, and mentors. This event is designed to unveil the roles that each person plays and their perspectives on the application process and beyond the awards and showcase ceremony.
  • IDEAS Generator Dinner (Oct. 3 in Lobdell) – Come learn about IDEAS, changes for 2019-20 cycle, and network with fellow social innovators. Find a team to join or start one of your own! This event is open to the entire MIT community and to the public.
  • Proposal Writing Workshop (Feb. 3 from 6-7:30pm in the Bush Room) – This technical workshop helps you and your team prepare for one of the IDEAS proposal deadlines.  RSVP Here.
  • Chat & Chew luncheons ( Feb. 5 from 12-1:15pm in W20-555) – Explore social innovation frameworks that you can reference while charting your social innovation or entrepreneurship path. RSVP here.

Looking for additional resources? Visit our online learning portal created in partnership with Acumen to learn how to scale your venture, measure impact, and more!

Who is eligible for IDEAS?

  1. Your team must be led by full-­time, currently-registered MIT students. We encourage you, however, to collaborate with and involve people around the world to realize your team’s vision.
  2. The MIT student(s) on your team must have made a significant contribution to the development of the project’s innovative design, process, model, technology, or other key components.
  3. Your entry must be the original work of your team.
  4. Your team must identify and work with a community partner to understand the problem, develop the solution, and implement the project. A community partner can be a non-profit organization, a government body, a partner or client company, a community leader, a school, etc.
  5. Your proposed project must be service-oriented, ethical, and safe.
  6. Your project’s location cannot be considered “high risk” according to MIT’s Travel Risk Policy. We understand that security situations are continually evolving. If you are planning to travel or are traveling with PKG Center funds, we reserve the right to ask you to change, delay, or otherwise alter your travel plans if we think it necessary for your safety.
  7. Your team must be available to attend all required events—reviewer feedback session, Innovation Showcase & Awards Ceremony, and, if applicable, the Grantee Retreat.
  8. Although you may enter a project for which you already have established a formal entity (501(c)(3), LLC, C corp, B corp, for example), your project cannot have acquired significant investment. Funding will go to the MIT student(s) on your team, not to any organization you have created.

Talk to us about IDEAS

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