ITF Expands Its $1 Million Ideas Competition

Innovation contest adds faculty/staff category to complement student track.

ITF Competitions
September 02, 2014

By James Irwin

The competition to create the university’s next $1 million idea now includes a faculty and staff category.

The Innovation Task Force launched a second track of its $1 Million Ideas Competition on Monday, introducing a faculty/staff contest to complement the existing Student Scholarship Competition. Both categories invite members of the university community to pitch ideas that will reduce costs or generate revenue of $1 million or more per year for GW.

Established by George Washington University President Steven Knapp in 2009, ITF brings students, faculty and staff together to improve GW’s business processes and advance academic priorities.

“Now that we’re multiple years into ITF, it’s important to look for ways to boost momentum and come up with new ways of thinking about solving problems,” said Dave Lawlor, senior associate vice president for finance and ITF chair. “The student innovation scholarship was great, and along those same lines we thought about what we could do to engage faculty and staff.”

Like the Student Scholarship Competition, won last year by School of Business junior Joe Holleran and second-year Law School student Alex Schneider, the Faculty Staff Ideas Competition involves a series of judging rounds before winners are announced in the spring. The faculty/staff competition involves a prize of $3,000 or free campus parking for a year. The student competition again comes with a prize of a $50,000 scholarship.

The idea submission deadline for both the student and faculty/staff categories is Oct. 24. Information sessions for both tracks begin Sept. 16 at the Marvin Center.

“The idea is largely to clone and go and keep the process the same,” Mr. Lawlor said. “For the university, the best ideas for new revenue, fundraising, research, savings, whatever the category, often come from the folks who are, on a day-to-day basis, running GW. These are the people who are our greatest assets.

“If we have the same kind of response that we had on the student side, it will be a great success.”

Students Alex Schneider, center, and Joe Holleran, right, went through a rigorous competition last year en route to becoming the first winners of the Innovation Task Force Student Scholarship. An expansion of the contest to include faculty and staff is a way to boost momentum for ITF, said Dave Lawlor, left. "We hope this will generate more interest for people to put their ideas into a business proposal that ultimately will lead to a prize for them and a plan for us in the end," he said.

Forty-seven ideas were submitted during last year’s inaugural ITF student scholarship competition.

“I think expanding is a good thing,” said Mr. Holleran, now entering his final semester at GW. “It will be interesting to see if some of the student ideas correlate with the faculty or staff ideas, and whether or not they can be linked in some way. The opportunities are endless in that sense.”

More than 65 initiatives have emerged from ITF, ranging from new online programs to implementing cloud data systems. Last spring’s scholarship competition winners, Mr. Schneider and Mr. Holleran, proposed ideas for computer energy savings and international payment solutions, respectively. The payment solutions idea, a cost-savings plan for students based on foreign exchange rate, has been implemented by the university. The energy proposal is in the planning phase within the Division of Operations, Mr. Lawlor said.

Both contest tracks are modeled after the GW Business Plan Competition. After the initial submission of a one-page document outlining each idea, a group of proposals will be selected to advance to a second round, where contestants, with help from mentors, will develop an eight- to 12-page business plan. Four to eight finalists will then lead 15-minute presentations in front of senior executives and leaders at GW.

Final presentations for the faculty/staff category are scheduled for March 13 and 15. The student finalists present March 19 and 20.

“The one-pager was a challenge—how do you put your entire idea on one page?” Mr. Holleran said. “But I think it’s a really good process. My mentors, Alyscia Eisen and Dave Green, were a fantastic help. It’s a lot of fun, it takes a long time, it’s difficult, and it makes you think about how you can do something that’s good enough to save the university a substantial amount of money.”


Innovation Task Force Awards Scholarships to Two Students

April 07, 2014
Winners’ business ideas aim to save university $1 million in first ITF competition.