President’s Innovation Prize: The Fast Track to Social Entrepreneurism at Penn

By Christina Cook

Equipped with creativity, an entrepreneurial spirit and a passion for putting their knowledge to work for the greater good, some members of the University of Pennsylvania’s senior class will, after a post-graduation period of planning, design and fundraising, develop commercial projects that both generate a sustainable profit and make a lasting social impact. Penn graduates have been paving this socially-conscious career path for many years, advancing the University’s legacy of life-changing work at home and around the world.

However, no other seniors in Penn’s history have had the opportunity available to this year’s class: to start such work immediately upon graduating, with seed funding, office space and a seasoned support network already in place. This unprecedented opportunity comes with Penn’s recently-announced President’s Innovation Prize.

The awarding of the inaugural prize will give an individual or team of individuals from the Class of 2016 substantial financial support from Penn, mentorship from Penn’s world-renown experts and dedicated space at the University’s state-of-the-art Pennovation Works—all in their first year out of college.

“Penn students are among the most innovative, creative, and entrepreneurial-minded out there,” says Harriet Joseph, director of the Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowships, or CURF. “More and more students on our campus are pursuing entrepreneurship and innovative work, and we’re always looking for ways to keep up with that burgeoning interest.”

Joseph says that the Prize, which will be awarded annually, grew out of Penn President Amy Gutmann’s desire “to create an opportunity that recognizes students’ unparalleled creativity on the largest scale.” With an award of $100,000, plus a $50,000 living stipend per team member, the Prize is without question one of the largest opportunities of its kind that is available to graduating seniors.

CURF and the Penn Center for Innovation are jointly administering the application process, and have made details available on the CURF website. Interested seniors are highly encouraged to attend an information session prior to applying. Two more sessions will be held before winter break, and after that, twice-weekly sessions will be offered through Feb. 9. Dates, times, location and a preview of the presentation materials are also 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.

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