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UC San Diego Announces Border Innovation Challenge


The University of California San Diego’s Rady School of Management and Jacobs School of Engineering, in partnership with the Smart Border Coalition, are hosting a Border Innovation Challenge to address difficulties facing the ports of entry in the San Diego- Tijuana binational region. The aim of the challenge is to develop new solutions and technologies that will improve security and efficiency at border crossings. The challenge will award cash prizes totaling $20,000 to competition winners.

Experts on both sides of the border are being asked to participate. The challenge is open to all UC San Diego students, faculty and staff, as well as several universities and entrepreneurship-focused groups in Baja California.

“The competition is a first stage in stitching together a group of entrepreneurs, companies, governments and investors working to make our border as frictionless as possible,” said Smart Border Coalition Executive Director Gustavo de la Fuente. “Wait times at our ports represent a cost of at least $7.2 billion and over 60,000 jobs to our countries. Just as the military, tourism and the innovation economy are growth engines for our region, so too is the border. Our ability to cross it more efficiently northbound and southbound makes life easier for all and adds billions of dollars to our regional and national economies.”

Entries to the Border Innovation Challenge are now open, and are due by April 22, 2019. The competition will be held May 22, 2019 at UC San Diego. Interested parties should go to to enter the competition.

“Our hope is that by utilizing the brightest minds at UC San Diego and across the border, the Border Innovation Challenge will give us a fresh set of ideas to help solve the problems that impact commerce, people and the environment at our regional ports of entry,” said Lada Rasochova, Executive Director of the California Institute for Innovation and Development, a center at the Rady School.

The San Diego/Tijuana border region is home to the San Ysidro, Otay Mesa and Tecate ports of entry, together creating the busiest land border crossing in the Western Hemisphere. Ports of entry are critical to the success of the region, yet continually face challenges related to long entry lines and security. The Border Innovation Challenge will ask teams to solve some of the most pressing challenges facing the ports of entry including: accurate wait time measurement the most efficient use of roads to access appropriate lanes, improvements to traveler processing using non-intrusive inspection technology, better directions and guidance for travelers and faster cargo passage through the border. Border Innovation Challenge participants will design solutions that could be adopted by U.S. and Mexican agencies, city governments, businesses and travelers themselves.

Border Innovation Challenge participants will design solutions to these challenges, and pitch their concepts at the May 22 competition.  The winners will receive prize money that they can use to develop their ideas.

“We’re excited to see the technologies, concepts, and solutions the teams create in this competition, and to work with them to translate their ideas to the market,” said Dennis Abremski, executive director of the Institute for the Global Entrepreneur, run jointly by the Jacobs School of Engineering and Rady School of Management. The Institute for the Global Entrepreneur develops entrepreneurial leaders and helps UC San Diego-affiliated teams and startups translate technology innovations to market to fuel the economy and benefit society.    

The Border Innovation Challenge is the first step in a strategy to utilize resources on both sides of the border to improve traveler flows at our ports of entry in the context of constraining topography, governmental decision-making and limited access to funding. Though the short term outcome of the challenge are innovations for border improvements, a medium-term objective is to establish lasting relationships with academia, companies and investors who see the border as an opportunity. 

For more information on the Border Innovation Challenge, go to: