Applications Open Now Through January 29, 2021, at 5 pm PT!
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Cisco Global Problem Solver Challenge 2021

$1 Million USD in Prizes

Calling All #TechForGood Startups

How can your early-stage innovative technology solution solve the world’s most pressing social and environmental problems?

$1,000,000 USD in Prizes

In 2021, for our fifth annual Cisco Global Problem Solver Challenge, we are offering an expanded prize pool of $1 million USD, spread across 20 different awards. These prizes will recognize new business ideas that leverage technology for social impact from early-stage entrepreneurs around the world. Our goal is to advance early-stage projects that are beyond the concept or idea formation stage, but which have not yet generated over $1M USD in funding and/or revenue. For full eligibility requirements, please refer to the rules. To apply you must submit your solution by January 29, 2021, at 5 pm PT.


Prizes

  • $250,000 USD Grand Prize

    A single team will be designated the grand prize winner.

  • $75,000 USD Regional First Runners-Up

    Three teams from Americas, EMEAR and APJC will be designated the regional first runners-up and will receive $75,000 USD each.

  • $50,000 USD Second Runners-Up

    Three teams will be designated the second runners-up and will receive $50,000 USD each.

  • $25,000 USD Third Runners-Up

    Three teams will be designated the third runners-up and will receive $25,000 USD each.

  • $10,000 USD Fourth Runners-Up

    Three teams will be designated the fourth runners-up and will receive $10,000 USD each.

  • $10,000 USD People's Choice

    The finalist entry that receives the most votes will receive the People’s Choice Award.

  • $10,000 USD Cisco Employees' Choice

    The finalist entry that receives the most votes will receive the Cisco Employees' Choice Award.

In addition to the general prizes above, we are offering five special prizes, of $50,000 USD each, to support important solutions and focus areas. Additional details about each of these special prizes is provided below. To be considered for one of these prizes, complete the prize-specific question(s) within the application and ensure you submit your solution by January 29, 2021, at 5 pm PT.

Note: These Special 2021 Prizes are offered in addition to the general prizes listed above, and winning one of these Special 2021 Prizes does not preclude winning any of the other prizes.

India Impact Prizes

  • $50,000 USD Greenhouse Gas Solutions Prize

    A single team will be designated as the winner of this prize.

  • $50,000 USD Ethical AI Prize

    A single team will be designated as the winner of this prize.

  • $50,000 USD Digital Inclusivity Prize

    A single team will be designated as the winner of this prize.

  • $50,000 USD HBCU Startup Prize

    A single team will be designated as the winner of this prize.

  • $50,000 USD Pandemic Response Prize

    A single team will be designated as the winner of this prize.

Greenhouse Gas Solutions Prize

The Greenhouse Gas Solutions Prize will be awarded to a startup using technology to reduce greenhouse gases (GHG) in the Earth’s atmosphere. This GHG reduction may come from:

• reductions in GHG emissions released during a product or process life cycle, 

• direct removal of GHG emissions from the atmosphere, 

• economic use of removed emissions or byproducts, 

• implementation of already proposed solutions (such as from Project Drawdown®), 

or other innovations to stop the increase—or even reverse—GHG concentrations in the Earth’s atmosphere. The winner of the Greenhouse Gas Solutions Prize will be awarded $50,000 USD to accelerate the development of their solution. 

Read more about the Greenhouse Gas Solutions Prize in this blog post

Ethical AI Prize

The Ethical AI Prize will be awarded to a startup designing artificial intelligence in an inherently ethical manner so that the solution addresses social, environmental, or technological challenges. We believe the ethical use of AI and machine learning can radically accelerate social impact while also reducing unintended societal harm. This $50,000 USD prize is being offered by Cisco’s Emerging Technologies and Incubation Group. The winner of the Ethical AI Prize will also be offered the chance to present their solution and get feedback from the Emerging Technologies and Incubation team. This exclusive opportunity will include up to five hours of technical mentorship in an area of the winner’s choice, plus a session with our engineering team to help expand the solution’s technical scope. 

Digital Inclusivity Prize

The Digital Inclusivity Prize will be awarded to a startup using technology to ensure that no one is left behind, and that underserved communities are enabled to thrive in an increasingly digital word. The winning solution will be focused on closing the digital divide by addressing issues such as accessibility, affordability, and digital literacy to build a more inclusive digital world. This $50,000 USD prize is offered by Cisco’s Emerging Technologies and Incubation Group in the spirit of our new purpose to Power an Inclusive Future for All.  The winner of the Digital Inclusivity Prize will also be offered the chance to present their solution and get feedback from the Emerging Technologies and Incubation team. This exclusive opportunity will include up to five hours of technical mentorship in an area of the winner’s choice, plus a session with our engineering team to help expand the solution’s technical scope. 

HBCU Startup Prize

Cisco's Social Justice Beliefs and Actions framework commits to the strategic recovery, sustainability, and legacy of America's historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), post-COVID and beyond. We believe in the importance of investing in African American/Black-owned startups. The HBCU Startup Prize will be awarded to a team with at least one founder who is a student or graduate of an HBCU, with an innovative technology solution that addresses a social or environmental problem. The winner of the HBCU Startup Prize will be awarded $50,000 USD to accelerate their solution.  

Read more about the HBCU Startup Prize in this blog post

Pandemic Response Prize

The Pandemic Response Prize will be awarded to a startup responding to COVID-19 or future pandemic crises. The winning team will have an innovative technology solution that accelerates the response to, or recovery from, COVID-19 and its physical, social, or economic impact. The winner of the Pandemic Response Prize will be awarded $50,000 USD to accelerate development of their solution. 

Read more about the Pandemic Response Prize in this blog post

Apply Now!