Wege Prize, a global transdisciplinary student design competition focused on developing innovative solutions to “wicked problems” through the lens of the circular economy, has revealed the 25 teams participating in the 2017 competition.

Wege Prize is organized by Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University’s (KCAD’s) Wege Center for Sustainable Design with the support of the Wege Foundation. The competition challenges teams of five to rethink the world’s linear economic models into ones which are regenerative by designing a product, service, or business model that could function within and help create a circular economy – a model in which resources can be re-adapted for use without limiting the desirability of products or the flow of revenue. Teams are required to represent at least two different academic institutions and at least three different academic disciplines. 

Winners of Wege Prize 2016

Winners of Wege Prize 2016

In its fourth year, Wege Prize has drawn participants from 38 different colleges/universities from around the globe, including many of the world’s oldest and most prestigious academic institutions. Representing 17 countries, the participating schools include:

African Leadership Unleashed (Mauritius)
AgroParisTech (France)
Alma College (United States)
Autonomous University of Nicaragua (Nicaragua)
Beijing Normal University (China)
Brown University (United States)
Delft University of Technology (Netherlands)
EARTH University (Costa Rica)
Ferris State University (United States)
Fond Du Lac Tribal and Community College (United States)
Grand Valley State University (United States)
Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University (United States)
Lund University (Sweden)
Messiah College (United States)
Metropolitan Technological Institute of Medellín (Colombia)
Midlands State University (Zimbabwe)
National University of Science and Technology (Zimbabwe)
Northwood University (United States)
Parthenope University of Naples (Italy)
Polytechnic Colombian Jaime Isaza Cadavid (Colombia)
Pontifical Catholic University of Chile (Chile)
Purdue University (United States)
Sharif University of Technology (Iran)
Shobit University (India)
Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (Canada)
The New School (United States)
The University of British Columbia (Canada)
Tuskegee University (United States)
University of Calgary (Canada)
University of Copenhagen (Denmark)
University of Leiden (Netherlands)
University of Manchester (United Kingdom)
University of Michigan (United States)
University of Minnesota Duluth (United States)
University of Tehran (Iran)
University of Zimbabwe (Zimbabwe)
Yale University (United States)

The 25 teams also showcase a remarkable disciplinary diversity as well, with 84 unique areas of academic study represented in the field. For 2017, Wege Prize was opened up to graduate students for the first time. Graduate and undergraduate students will be competing against one another, and many teams in the field contain a mix of both.

“We’re dedicated to growing the competition on a yearly basis, both in terms of the breadth of participation and the scope of the ideas teams generate. We want to showcase the power of widening the perspective with which we can approach the world’s wicked problems,” said Gayle DeBruyn, competition organizer and chair of the Collaborative Design and Furniture Design programs at KCAD who also serves as the college’s Sustainability Officer. “We’re very excited to welcome many new schools and countries into the fold this year, and we’re looking forward to seeing their ideas emerge.”

All 25 teams were required to submit a research plan as a part of their team registration. Now, teams’ next challenge is to translate their research into a concrete draft of a fully-developed solution, focusing on customer/user need, economic feasibility, a sound business model, and the relation of the product, service, or business model to the larger system of the circular economy. The initial drafts of their solutions are due on January 30, 2017.  

The initial drafts will be reviewed by a panel of expert judges, who will then choose the teams that will move onto the third phase of competition, in which teams must develop and submit a final draft of their solution, due by April 3, 2017. Final drafts will be reviewed by the judges, who will select the finalist teams that will present their solutions live at the Wege Prize 2017 Awards on May 19, 2017 in Grand Rapids, Mich. Prizes to be awarded include $15,000 to the first-place team, $10,000 to the second-place team, and $5,000 to the 3rd place team.

Judges for Wege Prize 2017 include:

Christopher Carter – Independent educator, animator, and sculptor
Miami, FL

Gretchen Hooker – Biomimicry Specialist, Biomimicry Institute    
Kalamazoo, MI     

Nathan Shedroff – Chair, MBA in Design Strategy, California College of the Arts
San Francisco, CA

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

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

For a complete breakdown of teams competing in Wege Prize 2017, visit wegeprize.org/2017-teams.