Meet the bold student innovators tackling some of the world’s biggest problems.

Wege Prize, an annual competition that ignites game-changing solutions for the future by inspiring college/university students around the world to collaborate across institutional, disciplinary, and cultural boundaries to redesign the way economies work, has revealed the teams that have been selected to participate in the 2019 competition. Participants will contend for over $30,000 (USD) in total cash prizes, all while helping to show the world what the future of problem solving looks like.

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Wege Prize teams must comprise five members enrolled full-time in an undergraduate or graduate level degree program. Teams must also represent at least two different academic institutions and at least three different academic disciplines. Each team must leverage its diversity of perspective and expertise to collaboratively design and propose a product, service, business/nonprofit organization, or other solution to a “wicked” problem—a complex, layered problem such as environmental degradation or homelessness—that can help power the transition from a linear economic model to a circular economy. A circular economy is one that is restorative by design and aims to constantly keep products, components, and materials at their highest utility and value.

  Emiliano Iturriaga of Wege Prize 2018 winning team Circular Tourism Mexico presents at the 2018 Wege Prize Awards

Emiliano Iturriaga of Wege Prize 2018 winning team Circular Tourism Mexico presents at the 2018 Wege Prize Awards

Over the course of the multiphase competition, teams will develop their ideas from a research plan to a fully-prototyped and implementable solution, guided along the way by direct feedback from the Wege Prize judges, a diverse and accomplished group of professionals whose collective expertise spans the circular economy, sustainable business, green chemistry, industrial design, UX/UI design, digital fabrication, biomimicry, public policy, education, and more.

Past Wege Prize winners have developed a sustainable, circular online tourism platform for indigenous communities in Mexico, converted organic waste from food/beverage processing plants into insect protein-based animal feed and agricultural fertilizer, and created an on-site waste treatment system for hospitals that minimizes environmental impact while maximizing the potential for resource recovery, among many other innovative solutions.

  Wege Prize 2018 finalist team members pose with the judges following the conclusion of the 2018 Wege Prize Awards

Wege Prize 2018 finalist team members pose with the judges following the conclusion of the 2018 Wege Prize Awards

The nine teams that have been selected to participate in Wege Prize 2019 represent 14 countries (by citizenship), 21 academic institutions, and 40 academic disciplines. They are:


AQUA MUNDA
Countries represented:
United States
Institutions represented:

Grand Valley State University (United States), Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University (United States)
Disciplines represented:
Architecture, Collaborative Design, Graphic Design, Industrial Design, Marketing and Entrepreneurship
What they’re working on:
Addressing the contamination of potable water sources by per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS).


BEMGAM
Countries represented:
China, Iran, Iraq, Malaysia, Pakistan
Institutions represented:

University of Modena and Reggio Emilia (Italy), University of Technology Sydney (Australia)
Disciplines represented:
Computer Engineering, Energy Engineering, Information Systems, Intercultural Communication (Fashion), Software Engineering
What they’re working on:
Developing a circular energy distribution system that can intelligently balance demand and supply.  


CONSIDERED FURNITURE
Countries represented:
Canada, United States
Institutions represented:

Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University (United States), University of Toronto (Canada)
Disciplines represented:

Architecture, Biology, Collaborative Design, Furniture Design
What they’re working on:
Addressing waste in the furniture industry by exploring the reuse potential of furniture that has reached the end of its life cycle.   

NATURAL DREAM
Countries represented:
China
Institutions represented:

Beijing Normal University (China), Tsinghua University (China)
Disciplines represented:

Environmental Economics, Environmental Policy, Environmental Science and Engineering, Environmental System Analysis, Urban Metabolism
What they’re working on:
Developing a framework for assessing the effectiveness of China’s 2008 “Circular Economy Promotion Law,” especially as it relates to scalability in urban areas.


NKUNIM
Countries represented:
Ghana
Institutions represented:

Accra Institute of Technology (Ghana), Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (Ghana), Palm Institute of Technology (Ghana)
Disciplines represented:

Computerized Accounting, Computer Science, Information Communication Technology, Procurement and Supply Chain Management, Project Management
What they’re working on:
Addressing the persistent problem of plastic waste, one of Ghana’s largest waste streams, by exploring the potential for upcycling/reuse.


NORENA GROUP
Countries represented:
Gabon, Ivory Coast, Togo
Institutions represented:

EARTH University (Costa Rica), Northland College (United States), Michigan State University (United States), United States International University Africa (Kenya), Yonsei University (South Korea)
Disciplines represented:

Agricultural Sciences, Environmental Engineering, International Relations, International Studies/Quantitative Risk Management, Natural Resources/Sustainable Entrepreneurship
What they’re working on:
Addressing the problem of food waste by upcycling food waste into other useful products/commodities.


NTU
Countries represented:
Taiwan
Institutions represented:

National Taiwan University (NTU) College of Bio-Resources and Agriculture, NTU College of Engineering, NTU College of Liberal Arts, NTU College of Management
Disciplines represented:
Animal Science and Technology, Business Administration, Chemical Engineering, Chinese Literature, Library and Information Science
What they’re working on:
Exploring opportunities for disassembly/materials recovery within existing second-hand retail markets. 


REDENT
Countries represented:
Nigeria
Institutions represented:

African Leadership University (Rwanda), Ashesi University (Ghana), EARTH University (Costa Rica), Wellesley College (United States), Wyoming University (United States)
Disciplines represented:
Agricultural Sciences, Computer Engineering, Chemistry, Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Entrepreneurship
What they’re working on:
Exploring the reuse/upcycling potential of the organic waste generated in cocoa production to create bio-soap, animal feed, and other useful products.

WET TECHNIK
Countries represented:
Uganda
Institutions represented:

Makerere University (MU) School of Art and Technology, MU School of Built Environment, MU School of Engineering
Disciplines represented:
Civil Engineering, Industrial and Fine Arts, Mechanical Engineering, Quantity Surveying.
What they’re working on:
Exploring the potential of grey water reuse and plastic waste reuse in Uganda.


These nine teams will now move on to the second phase of the competition, in which they’ll be challenged to respond to the judges’ feedback on the research plans they submitted during the first phase by developing an informative and visually compelling document that communicates their solution in greater detail. Complete information on the multiphase progression of Wege Prize 2019 can be found in the 2019 Design Brief.

Wege Prize 2019 finalist teams will be announced on April 1, 2019. Those teams named finalists will travel to Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA to present and defend their solutions in their entirety on stage in front of the judges and live/online audiences at the 2019 Wege Prize Awards on May 31, 2019.

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