Offering new ideas to positively impact the world, three university student teams have been named the winners of Wege Prize 2022, an international student design competition organized by Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University (KCAD). Sharing the competition’s largest purse ever, totaling $65,000, the three teams are advancing solutions for today’s “wicked problems” such as hunger, waste, pollution and climate change.
Now in its ninth year, Wege Prize has identified winning teams in the collaborative competition involving students studying in seven countries on three continents. They emerged over the course of the nine-month-long multiphase competition from a global field of participants representing almost 100 areas of academic study at 70 universities and colleges from an astounding 29 countries.
Through an immersive process transcending fields of study, cultures, and institutional boundaries, Wege Prize teams are inspired to reframe normal ways of producing and consuming. The teams engage in intensive research, testing, networking and prototyping, with direct feedback from the competition’s panel of expert judges.
“In this way, the teams create new products, services, business models, and solutions cutting through systemic issues — while also helping power a transition to a regenerative, circular economy,” explained Gayle DeBruyn, KCAD professor and Wege Prize organizer.
The winners of Wege Prize 2022 are:
- 1st Place ($30,000): Green Promoters, creating organic pesticide fertilizer to replace chemicals.
- 2nd Place ($20,000): Neocycle, a plan to recycle rare-earth elements from electronics waste.
- 3rd Place ($10,000): AquaPro, a super-efficient aquaponics system to grow fish and vegetables.
Two other student teams, Robust and SCUP Aquaculture, each received $2,500 awards as finalists.
Wege Prize, the international student design competition to create circular solutions for “wicked problems,” is a widely acclaimed and globally recognized competition serving as an agent of change for these disruptive concepts — and lofty student ambitions. It has drawn participants from leading universities worldwide, from U.S. Ivy League schools to national science and technology universities in India, Ghana, China, Japan, and Chile.
“The circular economy isn’t all worked out yet, and that’s where these student teams come in,” said Jo Williams, a Wege Prize judge and U.K.-based circular economy learning consultant who also works for the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. “You’re the ones who will be implementing this, so you can be part of that conversation, part of that journey, in helping to formulate what the circular economy really is.”
The solutions Wege Prize teams create have gone on to make real-world impact. The 2019 finalist Rutopia’s eco-sensitive tourism concepts, covered by Forbes, gained funding and support. Others like 2020 Wege Prize winner Hya Bioplastics and the 2021 team The Chilensis have advanced to business incubators that lay the groundwork to implement their prize-winning ideas.
“We are so proud of our winners and of every participating Wege Prize team, and we are grateful for our expert judges and their open-hearted dedication to the teams,” adds KCAD’s DeBruyn. “With climate change, supply and energy bottlenecks and so many other pressing global issues, the world needs more people who can work across boundaries, and solve problems with circular solutions.”