In April, one enterprising senior or team of graduates-to-be at the University of Pennsylvania will be named the inaugural President’s Innovation Prize winners. The award comes with $100,000 in seed money and a $50,000 living stipend per team member. And that is just the start.
The President’s Innovation Prize launched by Penn President Amy Gutmann in October is among the largest opportunities in higher education for undergraduate students to pursue innovation and entrepreneurship outside the classroom.
A competitive prize geared to the profit-minded entrepreneur with a passion for social good, the winner or winners will also receive dedicated office space at the University’s new Pennovation Center for a year as well as mentorship from Penn Center for Innovation staff.
“That is a big deal,” said Dawn Bonnell, Penn’s vice provost for research. “The Pennovation Center will be an innovation hub providing increased access for local innovators and entrepreneurs to functional space and shared resources that can propel everything from nascent ideas through early-stage commercial endeavors that positively impact our local, national and global community.
“The President’s Innovation Prize winners will benefit from this dynamic working environment and access to valuable programming delivered by PCI to support the needs of young businesses from formation through growth.”
Slated for completion in August, the Pennovation Center will include co-working space over two floors with wet and dry labs, shared lab support equipment, business incubation services, meeting rooms and social areas. The Center is the cornerstone of the Pennovation Works, Penn’s 23-acre, multi-use site at 34th Street and Grey’s Ferry Avenue, which is already attracting start-ups and tenants from both the University and the private sector with an emphasis on innovation-based economic development and entrepreneurial activities.
Through PCI, the winners will have access to market analysis, creative services and support with marketing, fundraising and IP strategy development.
The President’s Innovation Prize is the commercial analogue to the nonprofit President’s Engagement Prizes, which were first awarded in March 2015.
Project ideas for the President’s Innovation Prize must be envisioned as commercial enterprises with a social component, designed to generate a profit that is sustainable over time. Any graduating senior from the College of Arts & Sciences, School of Engineering and Applied Science, School of Nursing or Wharton School is eligible to apply.
The President’s Innovation Prize exemplifies the Penn Compact 2020’s strategic priorities on impact, innovation and integration.
Penn has a long history of supporting and encouraging social entrepreneurship.
The Wharton Social Impact Initiative and Wharton Social Entrepreneurship program are focused on the principal that making a profit need not be exclusive of doing good in the world. Academically Based Community Service Courses coordinated through the Barbara and Edward Netter Center for Community Partnerships at Penn offer students a way to engage locally with schools, non-profits and for-profit ventures in the community. Student-run competitions such as PennApps in the School of Engineering often attract entrepreneurial ideas with social impact.