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Judging Criteria

When crafting your proposal, you must use the proposal format we’ve created to help you answer the specific questions our competition judges will be considering. Download the submission requirements from the Resources Page.

Our judges will evaluate your project on three key criteria:

  • Innovation: We define innovation as a transformative solution to a complex community problem or issue. Your innovation can be a product, a process, a technology, a market-based solution, or a service that is either entirely new or is being used in a novel and beneficial way. Innovation creates value and new opportunities for the community and offers benefits that are an improvement on previous efforts. Tell us what other solutions have been tried and how your project differs from these.
  • Community Connection & Impact: We are interested in projects that address an underserved need—working on an issue or with a community that has not received sufficient attention, support, or resources, for example. This could mean working on a project that is very specific, such as providing access to clean water in one specific geographic area or community. Your project could be more broadly applicable, however, such as developing affordable means for evaluating environmental impact for small businesses. Either way, you should be able to demonstrate a strong connection to a community partner that is helping you define the problem and develop the solution. Impact can also be defined in several ways, either by how deeply a small group of people may be affected or how many people across a broad spectrum could benefit from your project (including the potential to scale your innovation).
  • Feasibility: We’re focused on supporting projects in their prototype or pilot stage. While innovation is important, we want to see evidence that you have begun to test your idea and that it’s grounded in reality. Should your team win a grant from IDEAS, you’ll have 16 months to pilot your project. We want to see that your work can result in a tangible benefit for a particular group or community. To demonstrate the feasibility of your project, you should describe the groundwork already done, note whom you’ll be working with to implement the project, and show that you have the right combination of skills among your team to make the project possible.

 Judging Process
A group of three to five judges—industry experts, nonprofit leaders, business professionals, MIT faculty and administrators, government representatives—will judge each team. Judges complete two evaluations, one based on your written proposal and a second based on their in-person interactions with your team at the Innovation Showcase. We will compile and average the scores from each judging team. Written evaluations count towards 45% of your overall score and in-person evaluations count for 55% of the overall team score.
Based on these assessments, we will compare teams across all the judging groups to determine the highest ranked teams. Grant prizes will be awarded in amounts of $15,000, $10,000, and $7,500. Award amounts correspond to the level of merit of your proposal, not to your budget request. The PKG Center staff will allocate funding according to the judges’ rankings. We anticipate selecting 3 teams to receive some level of juried awards. All finalists will receive a seed grant of $1,000. We anticipate selecting up to 20 finalists this year. This year we have a $70,000 grant pool.