Adams Sustainability Innovation Prize

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Do you have a sustainable student-led idea, project or startup? Apply for the Adams Sustainability Innovation Prize  – an annual competition offering $25,500 in prizes to recognize, reward and accelerate the U of T’s most innovative sustainability ideas. Ideas may be for market-based products or social innovation solutions.  Selected individuals or teams will compete by showcasing their idea via a brief pitch to a panel of judges on March 3, 2023.

The three winning teams will each receive $10,000, $7,500 and $5,000 respectively to develop their idea further.  There are three additional prizes of $1,000 each for teams who are not selected for the 2022-2023 competition but encouraged to further develop their ideas and apply again next year. 

Who is eligible to compete?

  • The team has at least one founder who is a current U of T student, post doc or a recent alum (i.e. graduated no earlier than July 2019).
  • Open to all faculties and sectors across the tri-campus.
  • If the team is a start-up company, applicants must have less than $25,000 cumulative funding or investment (not including research grants), and less than $25,000 cumulative revenue as of September 2022. 
  • Entrants must be able to present their pitch in person to the panelists at the Innovation Prize Pitch Competition on Friday, March 3, 2023.  

What are the criteria for judging?

  • At both the entry and competition day stages, the panel of judges will be looking for the ideas that include the following:
    • Opportunity: A clearly articulated and compelling value proposition. 
    • Viability and impact: Demonstrated  opportunity which aims to deliver positive impact and knowledge
    • Growth potential: Sustainable and scalable idea
    • Innovation: Intellectual property, if applicable, and/or strong competitive differentiation or complementation of an existing capacity or action
    • Long term development: a well-developed and thought out plan for next steps and how the award money will be used
    • Talent: A strong team, covering all key functions needed to build start-up or social innovation  
    • Communication skills: An effective and persuasive overall Executive Summary and pitch presentation.

Application Questions

  1. Opportunity: What is your value proposition? Who is your target customer or beneficiary? What problem are you solving?
  1. Viability and impact: What is the market or positive impact opportunity? What is the demand? What impact will you have on this market, or how do you propose you meet the demand with your idea?
  1. Growth potential: How is your idea sustainable and scalable?
  1. Innovation: How will you add value, either competing with or complementing existing capacity or action? What is your differentiation? How is your proposed solution “new“ to your target customer/beneficiary?
  1. Achievements to date: What have you accomplished so far?
  1. Long term development: What will you use the award monies to achieve?
  1. Team: Who is the team? What kind of skills and aptitude do they bring to the project/idea/startup?
  1. Other: Which of the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) does your startup contribute towards?  What other information would you like us to know?

Application Process

Please email completed application form, including the completed Executive Summary that follows to before 11:59p.m. on Wednesday, November 30, 2022. Applications received after this time will not be considered. Note that prize money is intended to be used for idea development and will be disbursed to winners based on submission of a plan for how monies will be used to accelerate the idea.  

Please direct all questions regarding the Innovation Prize or application process to