SU students invited to apply for the Wege Prize

Wege Prize Winners

In keeping with the spirit of Global Entrepreneurship Week, Syracuse University students are invited to apply to the Wege Prize.  Applications are due at the conclusion of GEW, on Sunday, November 18.

SU alumna and School of Education board member Diana Wege is a New York-based, conceptual artist who uses her practice to passionately express the nexus between the environment and social justice. Wege’s conviction comprises the eradication of prevalent violence marring our nation’s schools and beyond.

She particularly encourages SU students to form teams and participate in the Wege Prize, which is sponsored by her family’s foundation.

The 2019 Wege Prize promotional video has just been released and is available on YouTube and Facebook. It is also embedded in the homepage of

Wege Prize is 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. Contend for over $30,000 in total cash prizes, all while helping to show the world what the future of problem solving looks like.

To be eligible to participate in Wege Prize, teams must:

  • Have exactly five members
  • Represent at least three (3) different academic disciplines*
  • Represent at least two (2) different institutions of higher education, such as colleges, universities, or separate colleges/schools within a larger university. (For instance, a team member from Example University’s School of Engineering and a team member from Example University’s School of Earth Sciences would be considered as representing two different institutions.)*

*These are the minimum requirements. Teams with the greatest disciplinary and institutional diversity will likely have a higher probability of success.



How do I connect with other students and build a team?

Whether you’re an individual looking to link up with others or a partial team looking for a few additional members, the Wege Prize Facebook Group is a great way to make connections and build a strong team! Simply join the group and post in the discussion section to start connecting with potential teammates!

How can I apply to participate?

Participants must apply as a team of five, and must meet the aforementioned team participation requirements. Team Applications for Wege Prize 2019 are being accepted now through Sunday, November 18, 2018.


What is the challenge?

The Wege Prize 2019 is revisiting the following wicked problem: How can we create a circular economy?

Wege Prize teams must leverage their transdisciplinary makeup to collaboratively design and propose a solution to a wicked problem of their choosing that can, in turn, help solve the wicked problem of transitioning from a linear economic model to a circular economic model. Possible solutions include, but are not limited to:

  • Products
  • Services
  • Businesses/non-profit organizations

Over the course of nine months and four distinct phases, Wege Prize teams will grow their ideas from an informal research plan into a fully-developed solution that can be prototyped and tested in the real world. Guided by direct feedback from competition judges, teams will work to rethink and redesign the way economies work by creating regenerative solutions that have a widespread and lasting positive impact.

Wege Prize judges are looking for solutions that address the shortcomings of a linear economic model on a systemic level. The most successful solutions will:

  • Think in systems by demonstrating an understanding of how parts influence one another within a whole, as well as the relationship of the whole to the parts.
  • Consider the economics and viability of the solution within natural, social, and financial systems.
  • Preserve and enhance natural capital by controlling finite resource stocks and balancing renewable resource flows.
  • Optimize resource yields by circulating products, components, and materials at their highest utility at all times in both technical and biological cycles.
  • Foster system effectiveness by designing out waste and negative externalities such as pollution, toxicity, and climate change.


How will the solutions be judged?

Visit the Rules page for complete details on the competition’s submission process and judging criteria.

What is a circular economy?

A circular economy is one that is restorative by design, and which aims to keep products, components, and materials at their highest utility and value at all times. A circular economy provides a tightly looped, restorative economic cycle where resources can be re-adapted for use without limiting the desirability of products or the flow of revenue.

Imagine if we could design objects so that every material or component in them could be put to productive use at the end of that object’s useful life. By reusing materials at high quality instead of extracting new ones, we can save money and energy while having a positive impact on the natural environment.

Now imagine if we designed businesses or services that mimicked how living systems operated, so that they add value to the whole system. Living systems are generous; they give back more than they take out, operating on the basis of abundance.

Finally, imagine if the whole economic system was designed to facilitate these ideas; and imagine if it was all powered by clean, renewable energy. This is the essence of a circular economy .


What is a wicked problem?

The term “wicked problem” denotes a broad issue – such as poverty, hunger, or environmental degradation – that is considerably resistant to resolution.  Efforts to grapple with one aspect of a wicked problem often reveal or create other obstacles that must be considered and overcome.


What can my team win?

Wege Prize teams will contend for over $30,000 (USD) in total cash prizes, awarded by a panel of judges. Prizes are as follows:

  • 1st place – $15,000 (USD)
  • 2nd place – $10,000 (USD)
  • 3rd place – $5,0000 (USD)
  • Finalist Award – $1,000 (USD)

All prizes are split equally among the five team members.

How much time do I have?

The timeline for Wege Prize 2019 is as follows:

  • Monday, Aug 27, 2018 – Team Application Period Opens
  • Sunday, Nov 18, 2018 – Phase I (Team Application and Research Plan) Submission Deadline
  • Sunday, Dec 2, 2018 – Teams Receive Judges’ Feedback on Phase I Submissions
  • Sunday, Jan 20, 2019 – Phase II (Project Summary 1st Draft) Submission Deadline
  • Sunday, Feb 3, 2019 – Teams Receive Judges’ Feedback on Phase II Submissions
  • Sunday, Mar 17, 2019 – Phase III (Project Summary 2nd Draft) Submission Deadline
  • Sunday, Mar 31, 2019 – Teams Receive Judges’ Feedback on Phase III Submissions
  • Monday, Apr 1, 2019 – Finalists Announced
  • Sunday, May 26, 2019 – Phase IV (Project Summary Final Draft/Final Presentation Materials) Submission Deadline
  • Friday, May 31, 2019 – Final Presentation and Awards Event
  • Saturday, Jun 1, 2019 – Judges’ Forum

The Wege Foundation is based in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  Peter M. Wege, founder of the family foundation, felt strongly about keeping the mission local because it honored the wishes of his father Peter Martin Wege, who created the Foundation’s resources. Peter Martin Wege founded Metal Office Furniture, today’s Steelcase, in 1912.

Peter Martin Wege’s metal-working genius and entrepreneurial gifts started the company that became the world’s largest producer of office furniture. As his son Peter M. Wege put it, “Dad said the money was made right here in Grand Rapids by Steelcase and he wanted it to stay here to do all the good we can. I feel exactly the same way.”