Penn announces launch of President’s Innovation Prize

Penn President Amy Gutmann announced on Wednesday, Oct. 28, the launch of the President’s Innovation Prize, a competitively awarded annual prize aimed at building on the University’s culture of innovation and entrepreneurship while underscoring the high priority that Penn places on educating students to put their knowledge to work for the betterment of humankind.

The Prize will be awarded to a graduating Penn senior, or group of Penn seniors, in the spring of 2016. At $100,000, plus a $50,000 living stipend per team member, the Prize is among the largest opportunities in higher education for undergraduate students to pursue innovation and entrepreneurship outside the classroom.

“Everything we do to reward innovation and impact fuels Penn’s core missions of teaching, research, and service,” Gutmann says. “Penn students are educated to think creatively and are equipped to master new areas of knowledge and collaborate across cultural and disciplinary boundaries. This Prize gives our graduating seniors a unique and life-changing opportunity to be inventive and think broadly about cutting-edge commercial projects that also have social impact.”

The President’s Innovation Prize is the commercial analogue to the nonprofit President’s Engagement Prizes, which were first awarded in March. Project ideas must be envisioned as commercial enterprises with a social component, designed to generate a profit that is sustainable over time. As part of the Prize, student winners will also receive dedicated office space at the University’s new Pennovation Works for one year, as well as mentorship from Penn Center for Innovation staff.

“Penn students and alumni have a long and impressive track record of being on the vanguard of innovation and of proving that social entrepreneurship and enterprise can remediate social ills around the globe,” Gutmann says. “From chewing gum that helps fight dental disease in the developing world to eye glasses whose sales support the donation of eyewear to people in need, they are building businesses on the idea that the generation of a profit can, and often should, be mutually supportive of social good.”

The President’s Innovation Prize further advances the Penn Compact 2020’s core commitment to innovation and impact. The Prize is the newest addition to the Presidential Initiatives, which include the President’s Engagement Prizes launched last fall. Other key Penn Compact 2020 initiatives include a comprehensive effort to raise an additional $240 million for Penn’s endowment to support undergraduate financial aid, bringing the University total to nearly $900 million raised since the start of the Making History campaign, as well as the new President’s Distinguished Professorship Fund to create as many as 50 new endowed professorships during the next four years. 

Any full-time graduating senior in the School of Arts & Sciences, School of Engineering and Applied Science, School of Nursing or Wharton School who will complete an undergraduate degree in December 2015 or May or August 2016 will be eligible to apply.

The application process for the President’s Innovation Prize will be jointly administered by the Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowships and the Penn Center for Innovation. Details of the application process are available on the CURF website

This year’s application deadline is Feb. 12, 2016. The inaugural President’s Innovation Prize will be awarded in April 2016.

Amy Gutmann