Courtesy of Wege Prize
The Wege Prize 2024 competition had a record number of competitors who worked in teams to solve 'wicked problems.'

Wege Prize 2024: Pioneering Real-World Innovations for Sustainability and a Circular Economy

Oct. 25, 2023
Ferris State University's Wege Prize competition with a cash prize pool of $65,000 kicks off as 58 teams of multidisciplinary, higher-ed student participants worldwide work to advance sustainable solutions.

With the largest roster of competing teams and participants in its 11-year history, the Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University's announces the exciting onset of its 2024 Wege Prize international sustainability and innovation competition.

This year, a record-breaking 290 higher education students worldwide are working in diverse teams to devise real-world approaches to combatting problems facing the world today, such as hunger, pollution, and waste, as they vie for this year's top spot in the cash prize pool of $65,000.

Representing 155 unique academic disciplines and 109 colleges and universities worldwide—including institutions in Mozambique, Kenya, India, Denmark and Slovakia—the competition’s unprecedented 58, five-person student teams bring together a wide cross-section of participants.

The competition invites them to develop actionable products, services or business models that address challenges affecting people and the environment. Throughout the competition’s several phases, the teams refine their inventive ideas into real-world solutions to help advance the circular economy.

As select student groups advance through the seven-month, four-phase term, they work with the competition’s multidisciplinary panel of expert judges to fine-tune their solutions. The finalist teams will earn the opportunity to present and compete for a portion of the $65,000 in cash prizes.

Wege Prize was established in 2013 to investigate complex, layered, “wicked problems” and to encourage students in higher education to take a diverse, collaborative approach in developing new, tangible solutions to produce and consume essential goods, design for the circular economy, and apply their business models or products to be implemented after the competition’s conclusion. Based on its success, Wege Prize was awarded major grant funding in 2021 to extend the annual competition for an assured five years, thanks to the continuing financial support of The Wege Foundation.

Wege Prize 2024’s global field of multidisciplinary higher education student team competitors boasts eight more groups than 2023’s field, including 40 additional student participants and nine more academic disciplines represented by a cross-section of 239 undergraduate students, 41 graduate students, and ten doctoral students. With the competition's multidisciplinary framework advancing the collaborative perspectives of student teams across academic majors and countries of origin to develop sustainable innovations, examples of the 2024 participant initiatives include:

• Mitigating the environmental and economic implications of wood processing through the conversion of sawdust waste into biodegradable packaging and interior materials.

• Addressing urban heat islands and unsustainable energy consumption by introducing solar panel shading and circular container farms in open parking spaces.

• Transforming traditional brick production in Pakistan by optimizing the manufacturing process to reduce pollution and utilizing existing non-recyclable plastic waste in new brick materials.

Also, many Wege Prize competitors are realizing their ideas as successful ventures. Among the program’s notable achievers are:

• 2023 team finalist UnWasterwater has been noticed for its innovative approach to convert carbon dioxide into organic compounds, enabling waste to be remade into valuable organic chemical feedstocks.

• 2021 competitor, the Chilensis team that has been recognized for its sound isolators made from discarded palm leaves to ease invasive indoor noise pollution in Chile.

• 2020 winner Hya Bioplastics was accepted into a prestigious incubator and has advanced their business.

• 2019 team Rutopia created concepts for eco-sensitive tourism that won the Hult Prize in 2019.

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