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Innovation Competition

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Advanced Materials Enabled Innovation Competition

Objective: The Advanced Materials Enabled Innovation Competition challenges students to design or prototype an innovative technology based on advanced materials and to demonstrate that this technology can be successful in a commercial product/process or as a small business innovation research (SBIR) proposal.

Previous Presentations: Teams considering a proposal are strongly advised to view previous presentations at the link labeled "Archive" at the competition website

Innovation Competition Archives


  • Best Overall ($15,000); any team is eligible
  • 2nd Prize ($6,000) to a team with an undergraduate student fraction of 50% or more
  • 2nd Prize ($6,000) to a team with a graduate student fraction of 50% or more
  • Director's Design Prize ($3,000) for a team with a 50% or more fraction of MS&E students
  • Director's Commercialization Plan Prize ($3,000) with a 50% or more fraction of MS&E students

Except for the Director's Design and Commercialization Plan Prizes, a percentage of up to 25% of the each total prize amount will be set aside and be available for the team solely for expenses related to further commercialization of the project, such as patent and legal fees, marketing, or prototype manufacture, incurred within 18 months after the competition judging.  The remaining percentage of the prize will be awarded directly to the team soon after the awards are announced.  All prizes will be awarded but may be reallocated in the absence of eligible teams.

Competition Overview:

Teams: The competition is team based. Teams must consist of 2 to 5 Cornell students (undergraduate and/or graduate). No affiliation with Materials Science and Engineering is required.  Teams with a student fraction (undergraduate or graduate) of 50% or more from MS&E are eligible for the Design and Commercialization Plan prizes.

Innovation: Projects should be based on materials-enabled innovation. Suggested areas include:

  • Energy Production and Storage
  • Biotechnology and Biomedicine
  • Electronics and Photonics
  • Green Technologies

Schedule and Deliverables: The competition has a proposal phase and a project phase. Proposals are due in January 13, 2014 and should summarize important aspects of the technology and the business case for developing the innovation. In late January a subset of up to eight finalist teams will be selected to develop their proposals into projects. At the end of the Spring semester, finalist teams will report on their projects in oral presentations to a panel of judges. The presentation will consist of 1) a technical feasibility study based on prototyping, testing or computer modeling/simulation and 2) a business plan appropriate for either commercialization or a SBIR proposal. Resources will be provided for project development. Teams are expected to follow a timeline of deliverables. 

Proposal Phase: Proposals (a maximum of two pages) are due on Jan. 13, 2014, should follow the Proposal Format (see 'Timeline'), and should address the following questions within this format: 1) what is the new technology/process/product? 2) what is the innovation and its relation to advanced materials? 3) what problem does it solve? 4) who needs it? 5) what is the intellectual property (IP) position? and 6) how big is the potential market?

Project Phase: The proposals will be evaluated by a group of entrepreneurs, business experts, and faculty, and a subset of up to eight finalists will be selected by the end of January. Finalist teams will each be assigned a mentor to assist with project development and given a budget of $1,000 for prototyping, testing, or computer time. By February 10, finalists must summarize their prior work related to the project and provide a timeline for delivering technical results and a business plan for the final presentation. Additional team members can be added through Feb. 24.  The timeline should include deliverables in March, to consist of general information on the technical and business aspects of the technology. This information should describe: 1) the nature and relative importance of testing, prototyping or computer modeling/simulation and 2) the approach to costing (if any) and whether the team will present a plan for a) commercialization or b) a SBIR proposal.

Final Presentation and Evaluation: Final oral presentations on the technical results and business plan will take place towards the end of the Spring semester. Presentation evaluation criteria will be provided to the teams in advance and will allow comparison of projects with different technical and business approaches. Plans based on well-developed technologies proposing near-term commercialization should meet criteria such as manufacturability, immediate market opportunities, return on investment, etc. Plans to develop new technologies should meet criteria such as demonstrable technical potential, soundness of the research plan, competitive advantages of anticipated technology performance, etc. Teams with a business plan for a commercial product should "pitch" their presentation for an audience appropriate to their path to commercialization: a plan based on development of the technology within an existing corporation would address the concerns of corporate technologists and product managers while a plan for a start-up would address concerns of entrepreneurs and venture capitalists. Teams presenting a plan for a SBIR proposal should address the concerns of technical experts, government sponsors, and operators of R&D-oriented small businesses. The winners will be announced in a special ceremony at the end of the Spring semester.


January 13, 2014 (5:00 PM): Project Proposal Due.  

Submit as MS Word or PDF to or turn in a paper copy to Carol Armstrong in the MSE Main Office, 210 Bard Hall.

Proposal Format (2 Pages Maximum): 

Project Summary:

Team name; names, majors, and expected graduation dates of team leaders and members, contact information and NetIDs

Innovation area

Project abstract (100 words)

Project Description:

a) Statements of innovation and motivation (<250 words)

b) Material or process solutions enabling technology advancement (< 250 words)

c) Technical feasibility (< 250 words)

d) Review of prior art/intellectual property (< 250 words)

e) Business case: the potential market and commercial viability (< 250 words).  The business case does not need to specify the type of business plan (commercialization or SBIR proposal)

End of January, 2014: Finalists are announced.

Finalist teams will each be granted a $1000 budget and assigned a mentor.

February 10, 2014 (5:00 PM): Prior work by team members and project timeline due.

February 24, 2014 (5:00 PM): Deadline for notifying rules committee notified of any additional team members.

April 7, 2014 (5:00 PM): Milestone deliverables due.

Three-page description of prototyping, testing or computer simulations.

Three-page description of any costing analysis and of the type of business plan (commercialization or SBIR)


Early May 2014: Project presentations to judges: final technical results and business plan.

End of Spring Semester: Winners announced.

Competition Guidelines:

Team Requirements:

  • At every stage of the competition, students must be either Co-op students or enrolled full-time in a degree program at Cornell, must not have a GPA < 2.0, and must be in good academic standing.

  • No affiliation with Materials Science and Engineering is required.
  • A student can be a member of only one team.
  • All members of a finalist team must attend the final judging and be prepared to describe their contribution to the project.

Non-Student Advisors:

  • Non-student advisors are encouraged but must be approved by the Rules Committee in advance of any contact with the advisor; advisor guidelines must be observed.

Academic Integrity:

  • All team members must agree that the work they submit is their original work. Cornell's Code of Academic Integrity applies to the entire competition.

Licensing and Confidentiality:

Projects that propose licensing of existing intellectual property are allowed. Although the MS&E Dept. cannot guarantee that the details of the teams' projects will be kept private, every effort will be made to maintain sufficient confidentiality that the teams will preserve their intellectual property rights in the course of the competition.

Governing Rules:

Unless otherwise notified by the Rules Committee, teams are governed by the competition rules as posted on The Advanced Materials Enabled Innovation Competition website.

Questions should be directed to Prof. Kit Umbach (114 Thurston Hall, 607-216-8872 ,