On April 2nd, people interested in technology innovation that solves some of the most basic human problems, those interested and involved in social impact investing, members of the MIT community, families and friends gathered at MIT’s Media Lab to see a selection of revolutionary concepts and hear from their developers as part of the IDEAS program’s 15th annual innovation showcase and awards ceremony. From tools that read printed text and convert it to Braille, to a new form of more comfortable, customizable prosthetic experience for amputees; from system for connecting rural artists to consumers through licensing and online repository, to low-cost mobile reactors that convert farm waste to biomass for energy production without the use of heat for use in emerging markets, the innovations on display spanned the spectrum of sectors and industries.
The capstone of a process that begins each October, 64 student-led teams initially submitted innovation concepts to the IDEAS program office. Receiving mentorship and guidance, the teams refined their scopes, developed their innovations, in some cases tested prototypes, and created rollout plans. 46 of these were invited to have their projects reviewed by a group of judges made up of industry leaders, NGOs, entrepreneurs, and academics, and to showcase their work as a part of the 2016 Global Challenge.
The day began with judges gathering in the early morning to meet in their judging cohorts. Each cohort consists of a panel of four judges, all of whom have read three to five innovation plans in advance. The cohorts discuss their plans according to the criteria set forth by the IDEAS program office, and then meet with each team to hear the concepts first-hand, see prototypes, and ask questions. Following the meetings with all the teams, the cohorts spend time further discussing the innovations and plans, and eventually come up with scoring.
The day concluded with an awards ceremony announcing the winners who would go on to become part of the IDEAS program over the course of the next 15-months. MIT Chancellor Cynthia Barnhart opened the awards program that saw 12 winning teams joined the ranks of 128 predecessors. Winners receive additional guidance, mentorship, connections to expertise and industry, and contacts around the globe. Previous winners have been recognized by media outlets such as the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, the BBC, CNN, the Times of India, to name a few. IDEAS teams have operated in 44 countries around the globe, and nearly 50% of the winners over the past 15 years are still in existence today as private companies, non-profits, or licensed technologies. Companies represented at this year’s event included such notable entities as Astellas Pharmaceuticals, Emerson, NASDAQ, American Express, Bose, Nielsen, among others.
Faleiro is proud to be affiliated with this program. Several members of our firm have been judges over the past five years, and currently serve on the MIT IDEAS Board of Advisors.
Photo credit: Ben Bocko