Wege Prize – a uniquely transdisciplinary design competition focused on the circular economy – has selected three teams to move on to final stage of the second annual competition based on overviews of their solutions to a “wicked” problem. Now, those solutions will be critiqued by five leading practitioners and advocates of design thinking and sustainability.

At the Wege Prize awards ceremony on March 28, 2015 at Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts in Grand Rapids, MI, the three teams will present their solutions in full to the judges, who will choose a first, second, and third place winner. The top award of $15,000 will be given to the winning team, with awards of $10,000 and $5,000 going to the second-place and third-place teams, respectively.

Teams were asked to create a solution to the following “wicked” problem: How can we create a circular economy? Each team – composed of five undergraduates representing different academic institutions and majors of study – had to design a product, service, or business model that can function within and help create a paradigm shift towards a circular economic model, an economic model in which resources and capital are regenerative.


Wege Prize 2015 Finalists

Team: The Originals
Schools represented: Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University, Penn State University, Savannah College of Art and Design

The Originals have designed Organikos, an organization on a mission to generate mechanisms for society to develop long, healthy, and fun lifestyles. The team’s solution seeks to remove barriers of access to composting and make widespread composting easier by providing services and an in-home product. See an overview of this solution here.


Team: Pixelation
Schools represented: Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University, Savannah College of Art and Design

Team Pixelation has designed NOW (No Waste Delivery), a food delivery service that changes the food consumption and purchasing norms of the urban office worker by reducing packaging waste, food waste, and delivery service fuel emissions. See an overview of this solution here.

Team: Western Sustainers
Schools represented: Western Michigan University

Western Sustainers has designed The Local Loop Farm, an agricultural system that exists symbiotically with the surrounding community, using complementary systems to increase economic, environmental, and biological effectiveness. See an overview of this solution here.

All three finalists teams have been given specific feedback by the judges, which they will use to hone their solutions over the next few weeks in preparation for the final event.

“All of the solutions showed forward thinking and a real willingness to explore new ideas through collaboration and the inclusion of multiple perspectives, but the three finalists exemplified a strong understanding of the circular economic model and how their solution could work within it,” shared Gayle Debruyn, Wege Prize coordinator. “We’re very excited to see what the teams do with the feedback they’ve received from the judges, and we’re expecting a lot of improvement to come out of the fine-tuning process.”

Just like the student teams have done, the five judges will gather in Grand Rapids on March 28 to converge their unique perspectives, knowledge, and talents. Together, they will determine which solution inspires the greatest hope for success. Solutions will be judged on a variety of factors relating to process, understanding of the circular economy, depth of research, effective communication, and feasibility.

Judges include:

Colin Webster – Education Programme Manager, Ellen MacArthur Foundation
Endinburgh, United Kingdom 

Gretchen Hooker – Biomimicry Specialist, Biomimicry Institute    
Kalamazoo, MI     

Nathan Shedroff – Program Chair, MBA Programs, California College of the Arts
San Francisco, California

Ellen Satterlee – Executive Director, Wege Foundation
Grand Rapids, Michigan

Michael Werner – Green Chemistry and Restricted Substances Manger, Apple
Cupertino, CA


Those interested in seeing the teams compete in person are warmly encouraged to attend the Wege Prize Awards event, which is free and open to the public. For those who cannot physically attend, an online live stream of the event will be made available on wegeprize.org.


Wege Prize Awards Schedule:

9:30 am                                      doors open
10:00am – 12:00pm              finalist presentations
12:00pm – 2:00pm                judges’ deliberation/lunch break
2:00pm – 2:30pm                   presentation of awards
2:30pm – 3:30pm                   media/interviews