Border Innovation Challenge

What is the Border Innovation Challenge?

Border Innovation Challenge

The Border Innovation Challenge, established in 2019, is a business plan competition focused on the challenges presented by the US/Mexico international border. This competition focuses on bringing to the spotlight promising solutions and technologies to meet the challenges of the regions ports of entry, health related problems, and environmental issues that arise along the border. Supported by the Smart Border Coalition, the program is presented through a partnership of UC San Diego's Rady School of Management and the Jacobs School of Engineering, and is open to students, faculty, staff, and recent alumni (no more than 5 years post-graduation) from universities along the US/Mexico border region.

The competition awards cash prizes totaling $15,000 to support new innovative ideas that meet challenges related to wait times, cargo operations, port management, use of current infrastructure, financial impact, air and water pollution, and public health related issues that impact border operations. Social innovation ideas and those with or without prototypes are encouraged to apply!

Click here to see the recording of the 2020 competition. 


What challenges are you looking to solve?

The international border has been in the spotlight for several years and the challenges on both sides are numerous. This competition is looking for technology and solutions focused on, but not limited to, the following areas (see expansion on some areas at the bottom of the page):

  • Environmental issues including air and water quality
  • Personal and public health problems
  • Logistics around the movement of people and freight
  • Supply chain disruptions
  • Other challenges faced by the region

Who can participate?

Entrepreneurial students, faculty, staff and recent alumni (graduated within the past 5 years) who are affiliated with a college or university from across the US/Mexico border region may apply for the competition. Those with relevant ideas at all stages of development, including social innovation ideas, are welcome to submit an application.    

How do I apply?

Online applications for the 2022 competition will open in late summer. Check back for dates and times of information sessions, additional support activities, and the application opening. 

Need more information?

More information on the 2022 competition is coming soon!

Questions? Please contact 


Congratulations to our 2020 Border Innovation Challenge winners!

Grand Prize - Luna Diagnostic, a rapid and affordable COVID-19 diagnostic at the border

Runner Up - Smart Border System, a scheduled cross-border commuting platform supported by digital and physical infrastructure for queues management

Audience Choice - Tijuana Solar River  The revitalization of the Tijuana River channel as a solar power farm and binational water remediation infrastructure. A project that brings back the river canal to Tijuana communities with pedestrians and public spaces along the 11-mile channel.

Additional Competitors:

Pere, an app that would address the problems of inaccurate wait-time information at the US-MX border by utilizing crowdsourced information on travel times and destinations from our users in order to predict traffic flow and provide accurate information for all users.

Tracelinx, a scalable SaaS platform with Blockchain for the fresh food industry and pharma that enables unprecedented traceability by linking all players in the supply chain, while increasing efficiencies resulting in improved ROIs for all participants.  

If you'd like to connect with any of our competitors, please email