Border Innovation Challenge

What is the Border Innovation Challenge?

Border Innovation Challenge

The Border Innovation Challenge, now in its second year, is a business plan competition focused on the challenges presented by the international border. This competition focuses on bringing to the spotlight promising solutions and technologies to meet the efficiency and security challenges of the regions ports of entry among others. Supported by the Smart Border Coalition, the program is presented through a partnership of the 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 $12,500 to support new innovative ideas that meet challenges related to wait times, cargo operations, port management,use of current infrastructure, financial impact, water pollution, and COVID-19 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. 

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

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):

  • Accurate wait time measurement and predictive analytics
  • Best use of access roads based on current Tijuana infrastructure
  • Better Northbound and Southbound queue and lane management
  • Process improvements at US border agent booths
  • Eliminating driver error regarding getting into SENTRI lanes in Tijuana
  • Guiding travelers to appropriate port(s) and providing easy directions to get back to U.S.
  • Using new and current technologies to move cargo through the border efficiently
  • Crowdsourcing to pay for basic border infrastructure needs
  • Border crosser online surveying to understand the real-time crossing experience, northbound and southbound
  • Measurement of commercial impact in Tijuana due to long lines near the ports
  • Aggregation engine for border related essential information, e.g. wait times, pollution levels.
  • 5G network and its application at border crossings
  • Wait time impact on San Diego County sales tax
  • Gauging border news stories’ impact on cross border commerce
  • Real time water pollution monitoring in Tijuana beaches
  • New lane types for border crossers

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 2021 competition are expected to open in September 2021.

Need more information?

More information on the 2021 competition is coming soon!

Questions? Please contact