About Big Ideas
Big Ideas@Berkeley is an annual innovation contest aimed at providing funding, support, and encouragement to interdisciplinary teams of UC undergraduate and graduate students who have “big ideas.” Since its founding, Berkeley’s annual Big Ideas prize contest has inspired innovative and high-impact student projects aimed at solving the world’s most pressing problems. By seeking out novel proposals and then supporting efforts to help them succeed, Big Ideas has supported contest winners in making an impact all over the world.
Past Big Ideas Winners
How Big Ideas Works
The Big Ideas contest is split into two rounds: a pre-proposal round in the fall and a full proposal round in the spring.
Round 1: Pre-proposal
Eligible students are invited to submit a five-page pre-proposal by Tuesday, November 5, 2013 at 5PM (PST) via the bigideas.berkeley.edu website. Judges will select 3 to 6 teams in each category to continue on to the full proposal round of the contest in the spring. All pre-proposal teams will receive detailed feedback from the judges, regardless of whether or not they are selected as finalists. Pre-proposal entrants will be notified the mid-December 2013 if they have been selected as a finalist.
Round 2: Full Proposal
Finalist teams will have the opportunity to develop and refine their pre-proposals into ten-page “full proposals” due on March 11, 2014. In this full proposal, finalists will expand on the ideas presented in their pre-proposals, edit their proposals based on judges’ feedback, and refine their project ideas through collaboration with a Big Ideas mentor (a Bay Area industry professional matched to the finalist team based on the mentor’s content knowledge and areas of strength). From the finalist pool, judges will select between two and five award winners in each category.
Pitch Day & People’s Choice Awards
Student teams can earn additional prize money via two avenues:
People’s Choice Video Contest: All non-finalist and finalist teams will be invited in the spring to submit a two-minute video about their project to the People’s Choice Video Contest. Voting for this contest is open to the public, and one winner will receive a $2500 award.
Grand Prize Pitch Day: Select finalist teams will be invited to attend the Big Ideas Pitch Day in May 2014, where teams will pitch their project ideas to a panel of judges. Judges will then select Pitch Day winners to receive an additional award.
How to Participate
There are 3 ways to participate in this year’s Big Ideas@Berkeley contest:
Matriculated UC Berkeley students and students from other eligible campuses are invited to submit pre-proposals to this year’s contest! Visit our Contest page to find more information about the eligibility requirements, contest rules, timeline, and how to apply.Enter Contest
Starting in mid-January, Big Ideas finalists are matched with mentors–Bay Area professionals from a set of diverse fields ranging from business, management, and administration to engineering to agriculture to health services, among others. Together, finalists and mentors work to refine the team’s project ideas, develop partnerships, and craft a ten-page “full proposal,” due March 11, 2014. Visit our Mentor page to learn more about becoming a mentor!Become a Mentor
Judges have the opportunity to preview and provide feedback on students’ innovative ideas. Judges, over a three week period in either December or April, review and score proposals to determine which teams move on as finalists or are selected as Big Ideas winners. Visit our judges page to learn more about becoming a judge!Become a Judge
Big Ideas uses the paper plane as its logo, because our mission is to support students’ ingenious first attempts at social change and support students as their ideas take flight. It is generally thought that paper planes originated in China thanks to the widespread manufacture of paper and the popularity of origami. Over a thousand years later, the pioneers of aviation used paper planes to spur breakthroughs in powered flight. Da Vinci tested his ornithopter, an aircraft that flies by flapping its wings, using parchment models, and following his lead, Sir George Cayley, Clement Ader, Charles Langley, Alberto Santos Dumont, and the Wright brothers all put their aviation ideas to the test with paper replicas. In this way, the paper airplane was an integral tool in aviation innovation and has become a symbol of creative beginnings.