This year’s Elon Innovation Challenge supports the “Race to Zero Waste” initiative related to UN sustainable development goals and connected to the university’s participation in the Campus Race to Zero Waste, a nationwide program to increase waste diversion, recycling, and composting. Its mission is to increase the objectives of waste reduction, composting and recycling on campus and have Elon University become highly ranked among other universities/colleges for its efforts. This initiative supports Elon’s goal to reach 50% waste diversion by the year 2030.

The Elon Innovation Challenge is seeking innovative and creative solutions related to this zero-waste initiative through the creation of products, services, apps or compelling media campaigns. Although the Elon Innovation Challenge will take place over several weeks (February to mid-April), the final pitches will take place over two days in April.


Grand Prize: $2,500
Second Place: $500
Third Place: $250
Fourth Place: $100

Challenge Process

The competition will evaluate the uniqueness of the solution, its prototype, and the pitch. The pitches should demonstrate the feasibility of the solution as well as its ability to gain traction at Elon, serve as a model for other universities and sustain its momentum.

The competition is open for applications beginning on February 13.  All teams participating in the Elon Innovation Challenge should submit an initial registration form (deadline for registration is March 7), meet with the sustainability/waste representative by March 30, create a prototype of the solution, and pitch their venture to a panel of judges from April 18-19.


Eligibility, Venture Criteria & Judging Criteria


  • Teams can be comprised of one individual or groups of up to five. We encourage groups to include students from other majors or schools at Elon.
  • Applicant is responsible for ensuring the product, service, app or campaign does not infringe on existing copyright or patents
  • Applicant is responsible for ensuring the product or service abides by any and all applicable regulatory or certification requirements and suitable to be sold in North Carolina and the United States

Solution Criteria

  • Solution can be a product, service, app or campaign
  • Each solution must include a prototype. Teams are encouraged to utilize the Maker Hub in creating their prototypes although they are not required to do so.
  • Solutions can be for profit or designed as a social enterprise
  • Teams must agree to a brief check-in with an individual from Elon’s Office of Sustainability by March 27. Teams should contact EIC co-chair Kelly Harer ( to schedule the check-in meeting.
  • Teams will be able to work or meet with an EIC coach if desired.

Judging Criteria

Solution (10 points)

  • What is it?
  • What/how is it used for and what benefits does it provide?
  • How will the actual solution differ from the prototype?
  • Discuss the feasibility of the solution (demonstrate how the solution is capable of being executed, launched or able to grow/scale)?
  • What impact will the solution have?

Market (10 points)

  • Who will use or buy your solution? Who is the primary customer/user of the solution? Why is it a good fit?
  • Why is it/would it be desirable to the customer?
  • What makes your solution unique and different from similar ones/ competitors in the market?
  • How can the solution be marketed?

Details (10 points)

  • What is the expected cost of your solution?
  • Are there any legal or licensing requirements necessary for your solution? Have these requirements been met?
  • How well designed Is your prototype? How close does it represent the actual solution?
  • How strong is the pitch? Does it cover all the bases above? Does the team seem serious about the solution?

General (20 points)

  • Why is your solution unique and special (e.g., innovative and sustainable) and why should we be excited about it? (Show how excited you are and sell it to us!)



Please contact the Doherty Center for Creativity, Innovation & Entrepreneurship at 336-278-5916 or Professor Alyssa Martina at if you have questions.

EIC Committee

Professional Co-Chairs:

  • Professor Karl Sienerth, Department of Chemistry in Elon College, the College of Arts and Sciences
  • Kelly Harer, Office of Sustainability

Student Co-Chairs:

  • Lexi Arnold ’23
  • Aidan Burnside ’23
  • Lucy Garcia ’23

Committee Members: Kyle Altmann, Richard Blackmon, Nyote Calixte, Marcus Elliott, John Flynn, Stephen Folger, Dave Gammon, Betty Garrison, Kendra Harrison, David Higham, Lauren Hill, David Jiang, Martin Kamela, Robin Kazmarek, Elena Kennedy, Derek Lackaff, Scott Leighty, Alyssa Martina, Ryan Mattfeld, David McGraw, Sean McMahon, Scott Morrison, Khairi Morrow, Scott Oakes, Kim Phipps, Daniel Reis, Jakob Reuter, John Ring, Evan Small, Scott Spurlock, Bill Squadron, Aidan Steinbach, Jonathan Su, Scott Wolter