Background

Seely-Brown-quote2Big Ideas@Berkeley is an annual contest aimed at providing funding, support, and encouragement to interdisciplinary teams of students who have “big ideas.” Since its founding in 2006, Big Ideas@ Berkeley has inspired innovative and high-impact student-led projects aimed at solving problems that matter to this generation. By encouraging novel proposals and then supporting concrete next steps, Big Ideas is helping contest winners make an impact all over the world.

Making a Difference with Big Ideas

Big Ideas supports students at the very early stages of developing their ideas. Often, students who compete in Big Ideas have never entered an innovation contest or written a real-world proposal. The Contest challenges students to step outside of their traditional university-based academic work, take a risk, and use their education, passion, and skills to work on problems important to them.

In running the contest over the years, we’ve learned how to provide the support students need to turn their ideas into action. Most importantly, Big Ideas is designed as a year-long process. Through training and mentoring, students develop the skills necessary to plan, launch and manage for success. These include critical thinking, market analysis, team-building and presentation skills. Students enter the contest with creative ideas for social impact, and Big Ideas provides the resources that enable the students to make their project ideas concrete, feasible, and scalable. (For more information on how Big Ideas@Berkeley works, click here.)

Unlike traditional business plan competitions which are designed to vet for-profit companies, the ultimate goal of Big Ideas is to support students in making social change—whether through for-profit endeavors, non-profits, or small ad-hoc teams. Critically, Big Ideas promotes autonomy, initiative, and teamwork early in students’ careers, broadening their understanding of how they can use their education and interests to improve society.

By leveraging the creativity of students and the power of competition to drive innovation, Big Ideas creates lasting, positive and impactful social change—empowering a new generation of social innovators.


Past Big Ideas Winners

Acopio

Back to the Roots

Cellscope

More Winners


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.