Cornell undergraduates encouraged to participate in BIG IDEA Competition

2020  RULES

Cornell undergraduate students from all disciplines are encouraged to participate in the BIG IDEA Competition.

February 16, 2020 at 11:59 pm is the Deadline for Submission!

An idea may be submitted by an individual or a  team consisting of multiple people, but all team members must be current Cornell undergraduate students.

An idea may be submitted to either the traditional general track or to the new “World on the Move” track.

“Perhaps no issue today is more pressing and more complex than the movement of humans, plants, animals and resources across a planet that is increasingly fragile – environmentally, economically and socio-politically.” – Provost Michael Kotlikoff.

Students are encouraged to use entrepreneurial skills and the mindset of change-makers to  present BIG IDEAS which address the complex challenges expressed by a “World on the Move.” Examples include, but are not limited to ideas which would deliver:

  • Affordable, reliable, renewable alternative energy accessible to all
  • Clean water & sanitation solutions
  • Health care for all – e.g. Immunizations, child care, elder care
  • Agriculture best practices
  • More efficient food supply chain resulting in good nutrition for all
  • Access to social justice & gender equality in employment and sustainable economic development practices
  • Poverty alleviation solutions such as education equity, providing better housing and sustainable transportation
  • Innovations which build resilient infrastructure, sustainable industrialization
  • Solutions addressing the challenges and complexities of human and nonhuman migration.
  • Expedited response to climate change disasters including tsumani, hurricanes, extreme fires, etc.

In either track, ALL entries must be early-stage ideas, and not developed businesses.  As such, an idea that already has a functioning business associated with it will not be accepted. Specifically, the idea:

    • Cannot be currently generating revenues
    • Cannot already have received funding or financing of any form
    • Must not have previously been accepted into an accelerator or incubator
    • Cannot have any legal form of incorporation


February 16, 2020 at 11:59pm is the Deadline for Submission! Once submitted the idea is considered final for Round One.

March 1st  – Round One – 24 semi-finalists will be notified and provided basic presentation coaching from Life Changing Lab. Although an amendment to the BIG IDEA may be made, the fundamental idea cannot change from round to round.

March  11th Finalists Selected. The field will be narrowed down to 12 finalists who will be assigned a subject matter mentor/coach to help the applicant improve their submission.

April 17th  BIG IDEA Competition (during Celebration )  – The  12 finalists will have three minutes to present before a live audience of peers, faculty and distinguished guests.  The BIG IDEAS from each track will be judged by a group of experienced entrepreneurs, innovators and change-makers whose experience spans both social and traditional business enterprises.


A total of $9000 in cash awards are supported by the Vijay (MEng ’75) and Sita Vashee Promising Entrepreneur Award Endowment Fund.

  • 1st Place  – $3000
  • 2nd Place  – $1000
  • 3rd Place  – $500


Click here to Apply

For more information contact Debra Moesch