The third Global Grand Challenges Summit (GGCS) on the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) Grand Challenges for Engineering (GCs) will be held July 18–20, 2017. It is being jointly organized by the US NAE, the Chinese Academy of Engineering (CAE), and the Royal Academy of Engineering (RAE). Following previous summits in London (2013) and Beijing (2015), the 2017 GGCS will be hosted by the NAE in Washington, DC.

An important part of the GGCS is the Student Day, preceding the official beginning of the summit. At the London Summit, Student Day involved a day-long business proposal competition among the students attending the summit. The concept was expanded for the Beijing Summit, with student teams from the three countries developing a business plan for a startup based on an idea related to the Grand Challenges over a period of nine months. Five teams from each country were selected from initial proposals and invited to participate in a class on Lean Startup techniques, business model development, and customer discovery. Winning teams received monetary prizes and every team received a certificate of participation.

We will continue the Student Day business plan competition for the 2017 GGCS, and this note serves as a call for proposals. The deadline for Student Day business plan proposals is November 1, 2016. The goal is to have 30 students representing each of the three countries (US, China, UK), for a total of 90 students, all of whom will attend the 2017 summit in Washington.

GGCS Student Day Guidelines

  • Teams will propose and develop a startup business model based on an idea/concept related to the 14 NAE Grand Challenges for Engineering (
  • The challenges fall under four categories—Sustainability, Security, Health, and Joy of Living—and projects in these general categories are also welcome.
  • Each team may have no more than six undergraduate student members (not graduating before Spring 2017) and only one team will be selected from a particular university. All applying teams must designate a team leader who is required to be from an engineering program, but students from other disciplines are encouraged to be part of the team.
  • Important Note: Anticipating that more than five US teams will be interested in the competition, we envision that preliminary regional playoffs will be held in the timeframe of May 2017 to select the five teams that will represent the United States at the Washington GGCS. A similar timetable will apply to teams from China and the UK.
  • The business model developed by each team will be pitched, by the team, to a judging panel of entrepreneurs and innovators at the 2017 summit in Washington.

At least $50K in prizes will be awarded to allow the winning teams to start implementing their ideas.

Applications must be submitted to by November 1. Notification of acceptances will be sent by November 10, 2016.

The application must consist of a one-page description of the following:

  • Home institution
  • Names and email addresses of all team members (maximum: 6)
  • The selected NAE Grand Challenge for Engineering or closely related topic
  • A plan outlining the team’s idea and initial strategy for developing it.
  • In addition to the team, mentors (maximum of two) should be recruited. While we will request their contact information later, this need not be included in the application at this time (guidance on mentor involvement will be provided later).

Selected teams will be encouraged to participate in webinars offered by the Los Angeles I-Corps NSF National Node ( under the direction of University of Southern California Professor Andrea Belz. The webinars will run during the months before the competition and will provide educational material and software on entrepreneurship to help with the development of the business model, including training on customer discovery techniques. It is expected that each team will interview at least five people as part of the customer discovery process during the course of developing their final Summit pitch.

The five teams selected to represent the United States will be required to attend the summit in Washington and compete against the student teams from China and the UK. It is anticipated that the teams selected, as well those participating at the regional playoffs, will receive some travel support from the summit sponsors.

Questions about the competition can be sent to:


Louise Yates

Author Louise Yates

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