Innovation Competition

Are you an entrepreneurial undergraduate student with a great idea to impact society? Have you designed a new, innovative product as part of a class, research, or in your garage? Have you developed a physical prototype that you think is feasible to take to market?

7th Annual Engineering Innovation Competition

March 24, 2023

Cornell Engineering is Entrepreneurs

The Cornell Engineering Innovation Award Competition is an exciting opportunity for entrepreneurial students in any engineering major and in any college across campus. The Innovation Competition is designed to encourage and recognize independent work from students working on innovation product concepts and prototypes. The competition provides student teams with the opportunity to compete for prizes to support the next stages in the development of their "real world" ideation and concept demonstration experiences. This competition will enable students who win the awards to continue with their goal of bringing new products to market.

Students who have developed business concepts and prototypes in their own "garages" and outside the formal engineering curriculum are encouraged to apply.

The innovation teams may include a broad range of students from across the entire university (for example students with expertise in user interface design) and from all levels (undergraduate to Ph.D). However, as an undergraduate-focused competition, undergraduate students from the engineering college must constitute a majority of each participating team.

Application Information

Applicants must attend an info session or coaching session.

Applications for the 2023 competition are now closed. Check back in December 2023 for information on the 2024 competition.


Competition winners will receive monetary awards and the chance to participate in future startup opportunities.

The competition features awards in the following three categories:

  • Ronald ’57 and Frederick ’86 Fichtl Innovation Awards (funded by Burt Kaliski and Michele Kaliski '85; awards up to $5,000)
    Unrestricted competition for the most innovative and best-developed innovation concept.

  • Yunni and Maxine Pao Social Innovation Awards (Awards up to $10,000)
    Multi-disciplinary social venture team meeting the following criteria– A
    • in innovative solution aimed at solving a pressing global challenge;
    • A business plan demonstrating a clearly-defined social and/or environmental bottom line;
    • The highest and most integrated potential financial and social returns; and
    • Clear intent to seek further funding post-graduation, with the aim of bringing the innovation to market.
  • Ron G. Kermisch Innovation Awards (funded by Ron G. Kermisch '88; awards up to $5,000)
    Special award for an entry that includes implementation of a complex innovation as a fully demonstrated physical prototype.

**An additional award of up to $5,000 may be given for an innovation involving sustainable agriculture!**


The structure and judging of the competition will be managed by a committee of faculty and entrepreneurial leaders. This committee will determine the judging criteria (spanning business concepts to fully developed and demonstrated prototypes) and assemble the judging panel.

Past Winners



  • Ronald ’57 and Frederick ’86 Fichtl Innovation Award: Yoomi
  • Ron G. Kermish Innovation Award: Aabix




  • Ronald ’57 and Frederick ’86 Fichtl Innovation Award: Speak2Systems and Poloma Analytics
  • Yunni and Maxine Pao Social Innovation Award:  Response
  • Ron G. Kermish Innovation Award:  HoverBot


  • Ronald ’57 and Frederick ’86 Fichtl Innovation Award: Prometheus and Titan Analytics
  • Yunni and Maxine Pao Social Innovation Award: SOS Aquaponics
  • Ron G. Kermish Innovation Award:  YNot Bikes



How small and large can teams be?

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Teams can be of any reasonable size from one individual to a large group. We expect the typical team to be in the 3 to 5 member range.

Who can be on a team? How is the term “majority of team must be undergraduate” defined?

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Teams can consist of both undergraduate and graduate students, from both within and outside of engineering. It is expected that each team will be composed of students from Cornell. The inclusion of Cornell staff, Cornell faculty, or non-Cornell participants will be considered and may be allowed in special cases. At least 50% of the team members must be undergraduate or M.Eng., as the award donors desire to support and encourage undergraduate entrepreneurship at Cornell.

What is the timing of the competition?

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Applications will be due March 10, 2023 at 11:59 PM. Teams will be notified if they have qualified for the final round shortly after applications close. Teams that make it to the final round will give their presentations on March 24, 2023 between 10:00 AM and 4:00 PM. Each team in the final round will be assigned a 30 minute time slot in which to give their final presentation.

Do we need to identify the specific awards for which we will compete?

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No. All teams will be considered for all awards that are consistent with their presentations.

The competition talks about a pitch to a team of judges. How exactly will this work?

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Each team in the final round will be assigned a 30-minute time slot. The pitches should be approximately 15 to 20 minutes long to allow time for questions. The pitch must be made by an undergraduate member of the team. The entire pitch should be made by a single individual. Other team members may be present to help answer questions at the end.

What about intellectual property (IP) issues? Can we have a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) with the judges?

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It is expected that most of the presentations will be open to the public, and most of the teams will not need to have a signed NDA. However, exceptions are possible. Let us know well in advance if you require privacy, and then we will arrange for the NDA document and we will arrange a private (closed to the public) presentation with judges covered by the NDA.