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Competitions and Challenges

The California Institute for Innovation and Development (CIID) provides a variety of opportunities for students to explore the many sides of innovation and entrepreneurship. Learn more about some of the challenges and competitions available to students below.


The 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:

  • 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?

Applications are now being accepted for the 2022 Border Innovation Challenge! Apply by 9AM on October 5th:


  • September 28th (noon), Information Session#2/Networking (In Person) – Register 
  • October 5th, Applications Due at 9AM PDT
  • October 10th, Semifinalists Announced
  • November 8th, Pitch Prep Workshop – Registration coming soon
  • November 16th, Semifinalists Presentations
  • November 18th, Finalists Announced
  • December 1st, Final Event/Presentations – Register


Contact Karen at

View the recorded September 15, 2022 information session



Triton Innovation Challenge

The Challenge, supported by the William and Kathyrn Scripps Family Foundation, is a collaboration of CIID, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and the Jacobs School of Engineering and supports UC San Diego faculty and students proposing new technology ventures to address environmental problems. The competition provides teams with training, mentoring, $17,500 in awards, and post-competition support to help ensure the success of new ventures. Algeon Materials placed first in the 2022 Competition.

The Triton Innovation Challenge, now in its tenth year, is a business competition focused on fostering creativity and bringing to the spotlight commercially promising, environmentally focused technologies generated by the finest minds at UC San Diego. Supported through the generosity of The William and Kathryn Scripps Family Foundation Inc., the program is presented through a partnership of the Rady School of Management, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and the Jacobs School of Engineering.

The competition awards cash prizes totaling $17,500 to support new and innovative ideas that relate to the environment (comes from, inspired by, or directly impacts nature.) Environmentally related social innovation ideas and those with or without a prototype are encouraged to apply. All participants are also eligible to compete for up to $300,000 in investment funding from the Rady Venture Fund and Triton Technology Fund. Anyone (students, faculty and staff) affiliated with UC San Diego is invited to apply.

Meet the 2022 Triton Innovation Challenge Finalists:

See the finalists pitch their technologies - watch the 2022 event.

Active Gene - Easy biodiversity assessment onsite.
Contact: Debashis Sahoo at or

Algeon Materials - Sustainable and biodegradable plastic alternatives made with kelp.
Contact: Kim Pendergrass at

Kai Pono Solutions has created a stormwater filtration device that is low cost, requires simple maintenance, and has a small spatial footprint.
Contact: Navy McKee at

Renew Solar, LLC. expands access to solar power and clean energy through recovered, restored, and rejuvenated second hand solar panels.
Contact: Heather Hardenberg at or

Tyfast is designing next-gen lithium batteries for always-on, ultrafast charging wearables and consumer electronic devices.
Contact: Haichen Lin at

Alumni Presenter/2021 Triton Innovation Challenge Winner

Limelight Steel - Harnessing light to power zero-emissions steel manufacturing.
Contact: Andy Zhao at

Who can participate?

Any current UC San Diego student, staff or faculty member can apply.  Those with environmentally relevant ideas at all stages of development, including social innovation ideas, are welcome to submit an application. 

What’s the process?

Applications for the 2022 Triton Innovation Challenge are now closed.

Look for more information and applications for the 2023 Triton Innovation Challenge in January 2023.