Official Rules

Failure to meet these rules will result in disqualification from the contest. Please note that applications submitted to the Scaling Up and Hardware For Good categories have a separate set of rules and additional requirements. Teams applying to those categories must thoroughly review content on those category pages prior to applying.

  1. At least one member of each team must be a matriculated student at an eligible campus to enter the contest.  Please visit contest category descriptions to view a list of eligible campuses for each category.
  2. The Team Lead (primary applicant) will be the main contact person for all Big Ideas communications and must be a matriculated student at an eligible campus at the time of the pre-proposal deadline. The Team Lead has final authority in determining prize disbursement options.
  3. Big Ideas projects must be student initiated and student led.  Faculty, staff, and external partners may only play an advisory role for student teams.
  4. Student teams may submit an application to only one category.  If an application is submitted to more than one category, only the first submission received will be reviewed.  One student may participate in more than one project team as long as each team submits a unique pre-proposal application.
  5. Student teams cannot seek funding from Big Ideas for projects that have previously won a Big Ideas award, unless they are submitting a proposal in the “Scaling Up Big Ideas” category.  Teams that have won a Scaling Up award in the past are not eligible to reapply.

Prizes will only be awarded for high-quality submissions.  Decisions of the judges are final and not subject to appeal.

Full Proposal Application Requirements

All teams in the final round of the 2018-2019 Big Ideas Contest are required to submit both a written proposal short application video. Please carefully read all of the information contained on this webpage.  Any applications that do not adhere to the requirements outlined below for both the written proposal and application video will be deemed ineligible.

Application Video

All finalist teams are required to submit a short application video between 60 and 90 seconds. This is the first year Big Ideas has required an application video, thus we are utilizing the Y-Combinator Application Video model.  This format requires that teams speak directly to the camera, leaving out all production aspects (such as music, effects, images, slides, “post-production wizardry,” etc.) This is not a video making contest  and no fancy editing is necessary (or desirable). We just want to hear directly from the student team members about their project in a very straightforward, clear and concise manner.

The video is an opportunity for teams to introduce themselves, explain what they are doing and why, and detail anything else they want judges to know about the team or the project. Applicants should carefully review the Y-Combinator Application Video instructions for tips and examples, some of which are outlined as follow:

  1. 60-90 Second Video
  2. Upload to YouTube
  3. Allow Embedding
  4. Only Student Team Members Talking
  5. No Props or Demos
  6. No Effects
  7. No Script
  8. No Music
  9. Check Audio to ensure the quality is good before submitting!

Videos should be uploaded to YouTube and the URL included in the application platform along with the written proposal (by March 6, 2019.)

Written Proposal

Finalist teams will have the opportunity to develop and refine their pre-proposals into full proposals due on Wednesday, March 6th, 2019. In the full proposal, finalists will expand on the ideas presented in their pre-proposals, edit their proposals based on judges’ feedback, and have the opportunity to refine their project ideas through collaboration with a Big Ideas mentor.

Finalists are instructed to submit full proposals no more than 8 pages in length, single-spaced (including the required budget and implementation timeline, but not references or appendices). Big Ideas recommends the format below to ensure applicants include the required proposal elements, however, students are allowed to modify the order and presentation of the information as needed to tell their story. The basic required components are as follows:

  1. Problem Statement

This section includes a clear description and background information on the identified problem. An effective problem statement is thoroughly researched, shows a deep understanding of the issue, and builds a strong case to support why the project is needed. This includes but is not limited to: research/statistics on the problem, and/or research/statistics about the target community or market.

  1. Existing Solutions

This section is an overview of any existing services, programs, interventions, or products that have been designed or implemented to address this problem. Where applicable, applicants should discuss the limitations of these approaches, the gaps that still exist, and present research on what has been done in the past and where those solutions fell short.

  1. Proposed Innovation

This section includes a summary of the innovative project (e.g. program, service, good, etc.) how it works, and its intended impact.  This is the “nuts and bolts” portion of the proposal and focuses on what the project will look like in its 1st year of implementation. It briefly explains any implementation challenges that may arise and how they will be addressed. It may note (but does not focus on) whether the project intends to scale up or expand in future years.

  1. Implementation Timeline

The timeline describes the key next steps for implementing the idea for the 1st year only. Big Ideas awards will be disbursed in June/July 2019. Therefore, for the purposes of this Contest, the 1st year is defined as June 2019-June 2020. Teams may mention work conducted prior to or following this 1-year timeframe in order to convey the broader context or vision for the project —  but it should not be considered in their scoring.

  1. Measuring Success

Teams should include information about how they will monitor or measure the impact or success of their project throughout the 1st year of implementation (June 2019-June 2020). This does not need to be a formal monitoring and evaluation plan, but can take the form of metrics and methods to make sure they can track their progress.

  1. Budget

Includes both expected costs and revenue for the 1st year of the project (June 2019-June 2020).

Note: The average Big Ideas award is approximately $5,000 and proposals should not request more than $10,000 from Big Ideas. The requested amount form Big Ideas is typically seen in the “Funding Gap” section of the budget template we have suggested for use. Teams may also include any plans to leverage additional funding sources, if appropriate.

Budget Template
  1. Team Bios

A list of key project team members with brief biographies that explain the capability of the team to pursue their idea.

  1. Past Progress (**Scaling Up Category finalists ONLY!**)

List the name of the original project, the year it received a Big Ideas award, and a quick description of the original project idea. Report on project progress since the time of the original award, and detail any milestones and accomplishments (e.g. number of people reached, products delivered, partnerships developed, additional funding secured, registering as a formal entity, employees hired, or social impact). Include key lessons learned and best practices, and if applicable, pivots or strategy revisions.

  1. Sustainable Design (**Hardware for Good category finalists ONLY!**)

Teams submitting Full-Proposal round applications in the Hardware for Good category are called upon to increase the impact, marketability and environmental responsibility of their innovations by addressing how their project incorporates sustainable design and circular economy principles. Specifically teams should address the extent to which the project incorporates sustainable design and circular economy principles. The extent to which the process of assessing the project with the VentureWell Inventing Green Toolkit and/or an approved life-cycle assessment tool impacted the proposed product, design process, and/or materials sourcing.

Full Proposal Examples

Click the links below to download examples of past exemplary full proposals. Please note: For the 2019 final round, the full proposal application was shortened to 8 pages. These past full proposal examples (listed below) are 10 pages long, but all finalists must now adhere to the 8 page limit.

Pre-proposal - Full Proposal Example 1 Pre-proposal - Full Proposal Example 2 Pre-proposal - Full Proposal Example 3

Full Proposal Writing Tips

Full Proposal Writing Tips

Additional Resources:

Budget Template

Click the link below to download the Excel budget template you are required to submit with your proposal. Feel free to edit this spreadsheet as necessary (e.g., add or remove rows or sections).

Budget Template