MIT Sloan Announces Launch of Inclusive Innovation Competition

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., Oct. 7, 2015 – The acceleration of technology growth has led to major benefits for business, economy, and society. However, the challenge of inclusive innovation remains, as all workers do not currently have access to the same economic opportunities. To address this issue, MIT’s Initiative on the Digital Economy (IDE), in collaboration with the MIT Innovation Initiative (MITii), recently launched the MIT Inclusive Innovation Competition (IIC). The competition is being funded by the Rockefeller Foundation and Joyce Foundation, and aims to focus entrepreneurial and innovative energy on improving economic prospects for all workers.  The announcement came during the launch of Solve (solve.mit.edu), MIT’s new cross-disciplinary program to address the world’s most pressing challenges.


MIT Sloan Professor Brynjolfsson, Director of the IDE, says, “The goal of the competition is to draw both attention and innovative activity to an important task – understanding and improving the economic opportunity for all workers, but particularly for low and middle income workers.”


He explains that, in recent years, those workers have seen their incomes stagnate, their upward mobility decrease, and their financial lives become more precarious. “The IIC will raise awareness about and celebrate something very different:  those who are using the modern toolkit of innovation – networks, platforms, devices, data, apps, analytics, and so on – to be part of the solution for all workers as they seek to improve their economic lives.”


The annual competition will use a crowd-sourced approach to push the limits of what is possible to change the world for the better. It will include monetary prizes in at least four categories, including skills development, income enablement and wage equality, augmented labor, and public-sector programs. Details on the categories for prizes will be announced on January 4, 2016 when the competition opens for nominations. Semi-finalists will be announced May 19, 2016 and grand prizes will be awarded in October 2016. Judges will include representatives from industry, academia, private foundations, and public policy.


“High global unemployment combined with the transformative impact of new technology has put us at a crossroads: we can either harness technology as a job creator, or allow it to become a job destroyer,” said John Irons, Managing Director at The Rockefeller Foundation.  “The Rockefeller Foundation believes that by purposefully supporting innovations that maximize technology for good, we can move one step closer to creating a more inclusive economy for all.”

  • So many Americans are consumed by an anxious and disheartening struggle to secure stable, decently paid work. For all of technology’s benefits to the economy and consumers, its advance might worsen job prospects for the disadvantaged,” said Matthew Muench, Program Officer at the Joyce Foundation. He said that might happen through automation of lower-skilled work and reduction of worker power through sharing-economy platforms.  “On the other hand, technology and entrepreneurship may also be able to provide solutions to our national challenge of upgrading workers’ knowledge and skills. We think it is imperative to try, and we’re thrilled to support MIT Sloan’s Inclusive Innovation Competition,” said Muench.
  • “Building a more inclusive innovation economy is a central challenge of our times,” said Catherine Fazio, Managing Director of the MIT Innovation Initiative’s Laboratory for Innovation Science and Policy.  “This prize opens the prospect of finding novel solutions that better balance the oft-competing dynamics of innovation, growth and inclusion.  We are delighted to be collaborating with IDE to harness the power of innovation and entrepreneurship to improve economic opportunity for workers.”


For more information on the contest, visit http://innovationcompetition.mit.edu.     


The MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy (IDE) explores how people and businesses will work, interact, and prosper in an era of profound digital transformation. Working alone and with public and private sector partners, the IDE supports and conducts groundbreaking research in the areas of productivity and employment, big data, new digital business models, and social analytics. The IDE sponsors fellowships; hosts competitions, conferences, and roundtables; and supports other events that inspire new ideas. The IDE believes that challenges posed by the digital economy not only are solvable, but that technology will create new opportunities for people and businesses to thrive.  For more information, visit http://mitsloan.mit.edu/ide.


The MIT Innovation Initiative (MITii) is an Institute-wide agenda to educate the next generation of global innovators, preparing them to move ideas to impact more effectively throughout their lives by combining hands-on “innovation practice” opportunities for building expertise in the innovation process with evidence-based insights developed from innovation science research. The MITii Laboratory for Innovation Science and Policy connects faculty and students from all five MIT schools to systematically study the innovation process and the factors that drive its outcomes. Initial themes of the Lab focus on innovation metrics, including the development of new measures of entrepreneurial quality and innovation ecosystems, and the central challenges inherent in building a more inclusive innovation economy.  For more information, visit https://innovation.mit.edu/.


The MIT Sloan School of Management is where smart, independent leaders come together to solve problems, create new organizations, and improve the world. Learn more at mitsloan.mit.edu.