Inspired by the University of California Global Food Initiative, the Big Ideas@Berkeley student innovation contest has launched a new category: Food System Innovations. Winners will receive cash prizes of up to $10,000.

The category is open to undergraduate and graduate students from all 10 UC campuses. Mandatory preproposals are due Nov. 13. Full proposals are due March 10. Winners will be announced in May.

The category responds to UC President Janet Napolitano’s Global Food Initiative – an effort launched in July to catalyze the entire UC system around a collective commitment to address food security issues and the related challenges of nutrition and sustainability.

The Big Ideas prize is leveraging this call to inspire students to craft creative solutions. The Food System Innovations category is being sponsored by the UC Office of the President, Berkeley Food Institute and the UC Berkeley Blum Center for Developing Economies.

“We hope the category will motivate undergraduate and graduate students throughout the UC system to come up with innovative ways to address the growing pressures facing our global food system,” said Phillip Denny, manager of Big Ideas and chief administrative officer of the Blum Center for Developing Economies, which administers the contest.

Can students develop new systems, technologies or approaches to one of the 21st century’s thorniest problems? Denny, who has seen scores of Big Ideas contest winners go on to create high-impact ideas, says yes. He also points to the wide constellation of UC professors and researchers who have incorporated food sustainability and security into their work and whose passion for agriculture, health, nutrition, energy, water, labor and social justice will help inspire students.

The Berkeley Food Institute (BFI), a member of the UC Global Food Initiative, is working to facilitate cross-disciplinary approaches to food security, food justice and environmental sustainability issues.

“Developing effective solutions to food and agriculture challenges requires multidimensional expertise and innovations in many disciplines and across sectors – from production to distribution to consumption of food,” said Ann Thrupp, executive director of BFI. “Addressing these challenging issues is a great way to encourage group learning and to address problems collaboratively. Food can be a catalyst that brings people together in universities and everywhere.”

Along with the Food System Innovations category, the Big Ideas contest has three additional categories open to any student in the UC system: Global Health, Mobiles for Reading and Information Technology for Society. For students interested in learning more about how to apply to the contest, Big Ideas is hosting an information session webinar at 3 p.m. Oct. 14.

Media contact:
Phillip Denny, UC Berkeley
(510) 666-9120