Are you interested collaborative problem-solving and for a more sustainable future? Use your skills and passion to work with people of various backgrounds to solve sustainable technology problems and create impact. With the help of experts, your idea will be grown into an applicable tech solution and business model over the course of eight workshops. Each team will be able to present their concept at the Technology Ventures Conference in front of investors, entrepreneurs, incubators, and academics.

Find your inner innovator and inner entrepreneur while solving global problems with impact.
You will receive a problem, a team, and mentorship (technical and business).



 DEADLINE: 31.01.2016

After a successful pilot focusing on sustainable agriculture in the spring of 2015, the Sustainable Futures Challenge will return and be expanded for the academic year 2015-2016. The focus of the challenge is to foster interdisciplinary collaboration and innovation in areas of importance for creating a sustainable future for the world.

We will place scientists, engineers, business students, social scientists, and artists on teams to solve a challenge in one of five categories/challenges:

  1. Food: Focus on one aspect that makes a sustainable farming revolution uneconomical and solve it.
  2. Water: Design a self-sustaining home water treatment system for rainwater.
  3. Energy: Identify one source of human energy not yet exploited and design a way to harness it.
  4. Materials: Create a bio-plastic for laboratory/medical use.
  5. Health: Create a way to prevent physical assaults on women.

Solutions will need to take into account and will be judged on innovative nature, sustainability, and economy. Teams will workshop their ideas with industry experts at workshops during Lent term, continue to workshop and create a prototype during Easter term, and then present their solutions on stage at the TVC in front of investors, academics, students, and incubators.

Individuals who are interested in taking part will apply via the CUTEC website and teams of eight will be assembled by the committee making sure to have a well-rounded group of researchers from differing fields, business and humanities students and alumni. You do not have to be a current Cambridge University student to apply.

In your team you will be introduced to the challenge by an expert in the field then led through a brainstorming session. At the end of the workshop you have three weeks to work on a solution with your team before meeting for a group feedback workshop to refine your idea and build teamwork skills. You will then have three more weeks to refine your idea before presenting to a panel of industry judges from government agencies, start-ups, and agri-businesses for feedback on the feasibility of your solution. All teams will then have the chance to present your solution on stage at the TVC on June 25th.  

Who should apply?

Undergraduates and Post-graduates at the University of Cambridge in all fields: Chemistry, Physics, Engineering, Business, International Relations, Anthropology, Plant Sciences, whatever you do, if you are interested in working on a diverse team to create sustainable solutions to real problems, apply!

Applicants are expected to be individuals. If there is a partner that you would prefer to be placed on a team with, please state this in your application. Because we want to encourage participants to meet and work with new people, applicants may not apply in teams of more than 2 people.

Why should I apply?

Do you want to challenge yourself intellectually in a collaborative environment?

Do you want to meet new friends and potential future work/research partners?

Are you interested in entrepreneurship but don’t have an idea or a team and just don’t know where to start?

This challenge will foster a community of like-minded researchers and entrepreneurs who want to create a better world. The main focus is solving a problem together; however, if a suitable technology is developed during the project, CUTEC will provide resources for the team to turn that idea into a start-up venture. Our panel of judges providing feedback at the end of the event and who attend our Technology Venture Conference are always looking for bright, fresh talent to enhance their businesses, labs, and initiatives.

Does the SFC yield results?

A team from last year now has a start-up, Entomics, with funding from Shell and partnerships with Sainsbury’s, NIAB, and CUTEC. Co-Founder Matt McLaren said at our launch event that the SFC “changed his life.” He was looking for something to do after his MBA and now he’s found it in a great group of co-founders with a bright idea.

When will it occur?

  • February 3rd: Understanding the challenge and solution ideation
  • February 17th: Refining the idea
  • March 2nd: Prototyping
  • April 27th: Building a business
  • May 11: Testing your idea (consumer feedback)
  • TBA, end of May: Pitching your business
  • June 25th: Team Presentation at the Technology Ventures Conference 2016

Sustainable Futures Challenge