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ECE Innovation Awards Competition

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The Electrical and Computer Engineering Innovation Award Competition challenges students to design and develop an innovative technology based on electrical and computer engineering, and to demonstrate the potential of the idea to address a practical business and/or social challenge. Students seeking inspiration should look either outside of class or if enrolled in ECE courses that include class projects, labs, or a design component, are encouraged to develop their coursework further into a proposal for the competition. Ideas developed outside of classes are also welcome.


ECE will award $10K each to two winning teams. Faculty and students will also select top teams for additional award funds. For teams that have great ideas, but need further development for future submission, Bright Idea Awards will be awarded. View Innovation Award Winners


It is recommended that teams should consist of at least two or three students and a student can only be a member of a single team each semester. The team members are not required to be affiliated with ECE. Projects should be based on an ECE-enabled innovation. Multidisciplinary teams and diversity in approach and experience are encouraged. A team may choose to work with a faculty advisor but this is not required. A non-faculty advisor can also participate but must be approved by the Innovation Award Committee (IAC). All team members are required at the oral presentation competition. All team members must agree that the work they submit is their original work. Cornell's Code of Academic Integrity applies to the entire competition.

Deadline extended to Wednesday, April 8

 SP15 timeline 2-02

Competition Schedule for Spring 2015

ECE Entrepreneurship Forum
Week of March 15
Stage 1
Written two-page proposal and 60-second elevator pitch due
Deadline extended to Wednesday, April 8
Stage 2
Teams selected for oral presentations
April 9
Stage 3
Oral presentations to the IAC (Note: these presentations may be recorded)
April 17
Stage 4
Awards Announced -- Project kickoff, followed by progress reports to the IAC
May 1

Written Proposal

The two-page proposal should include the following: 

  1. Describe the idea and explain why it is new.
  2. Who will benefit or need your idea the most?
  3. How do you plan to commercialize your idea? For projects focused on social challenge, provide a plan to demonstrate impact.
  4. Describe plan to manage intellectual property if any.
  5. A timeline of activity and milestones.
  6. A budget, which can include summer salaries, cost of materials and fabrication, cost of maintaining intellectual property, etc.

Elevator Pitch

The purpose of the elevator pitch is to describe your idea succinctly, summarizing the written proposal, and at the same time conveying your sense of excitement for the idea and its execution. Videos should be no longer than 60 seconds long, uploaded to Youtube with a link sent with your submitted proposal. If videos are private, judges should be given access privileges.

Oral Presentations

Teams selected for this stage will give a 20-minute talk describing the project plan with 10 minutes for Q&A.

Award Phase

Teams receiving awards will submit a revised execution plan based on new insights and feedback from the IAC. The selected teams will be assigned ECE accounts to which they can charge expenses. Teams will submit reports as planned in the project proposal.

This award is made possible by funds from the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and the Ronald ’57 and Frederick ’86 Fichtl Innovation Fund.

Questions should be directed to the IAC faculty member - Prof. Amit Lal, 118 Phillips Hall, 607-255-9374,


Proposal Submission

PLEASE email your proposal and pitch to the email Alternatively you can send them through Dropbox to


Intellectual Property

The ECE Innovation Competition will make every effort to insure that the invention rights of participants are preserved in the competition. Students can learn more about Cornell's policy on intellectual property at:

Graduate students who have signed Cornell's "Invention and Related Property Rights Acknowledgement" form should recognize that Cornell may claim joint ownership in those inventions resulting from furtherance of their University responsibilities and/or from use of University resources.

For undergraduates, here are some FAQ's (which may in some cases apply to self-funded graduate students):

If we develop a patentable idea in a class, would Cornell claim joint ownership in the invention if it were patented?

For inventions that result from class projects, if all of the following statements are true, Cornell does not assert ownership:

  • The invention was created by the inventors while they were undergraduate students at Cornell;
  • The invention was solely conceived by the student inventors while they were completing a project for a Cornell class;
  • The inventors did not use any Cornell facilities that are not routinely accessible to undergraduate students.

Can we voluntarily assign the invention rights to Cornell?

If Cornell disclaims IP ownership for undergraduate inventions (as in the case of inventions resulting from class projects), the student inventors may voluntarily assign their rights to Cornell provided Cornell is interested in the invention. If/when the students assign their rights, they are treated as if they were "Cornell inventors" (i.e., employees) under IP policy. Cornell, through CCTEC, would then pay for the patent and manage commercialization efforts.

What happens to our invention rights if we get assistance on our project from a faculty member?

If faculty make inventive contributions to the student(s)' ideas - for example by fine tuning or improving the student(s)' original concepts and those refinements are and can be claimed in a patent, then that faculty would be a co-inventor and the University becomes at least a joint owner of the patent rights. Generally, if the faculty contributes knowledge that the students could also read up in literature (would just take them much more time), such contribution has usually not been considered inventive by the courts.

Should we be concerned with disclosing details of our invention in the initial proposal?

The initial proposals are not made public and so do not constitute a public disclosure for patent considerations. Judges will be asked to keep the proposals confidential and will not be allowed to read proposals where they may have a conflict of interest. However the teams that are concerned with revealing the practice of their invention should avoid excessive detail in the proposal; they may also want to consider disclosing their invention to CCTEC and/or filing a provisional patent application.