The Problem Lab presents the Quantum Valley Investments® Problem Pitch. The competition invites teams of up to four students to choose an important industry problem and thoroughly research its history, scope, and impact. Students pitch their findings to a panel of judges to compete for a share of up to $30,000 in grant funding.
Teams with the best understanding of an important problem will receive $7,500 to research and develop a solution to the identified problem. Teams will have an opportunity to double their prize winnings post-event if they are able to demonstrate financial need and progress over time, in consultation with the Problem Lab.
- Choose a problem and pitch category you'd like to participate in.
- Document the problem and conduct a problem analysis using our methods.
- Refer to the Library's guide for conducting research for the Problem Pitch.
- Submit your application.
- Participate in the pitch.
This competition is open to teams of 1 to 4 people. We encourage teams to bring together individuals from diverse backgrounds and areas of study. Teams must have a least ONE current full-time, or part-time, University of Waterloo student (undergraduate or graduate). All members are encouraged to attend prep sessions prior to the competition.
Frequently Asked Questions
Book a 1:1 with Problem Lab
Would you like to book a 1:1 meeting with Problem Lab staff to disuss the specific problem you wish to pursue? Fill in the meeting form to connect with a member of the Problem Lab team.
Choose a problem
Students can choose to research and pitch an analysis of any important problem.
Billion Dollar Problems
Students can choose to research and pitch an analysis of a problem related to any of the topics presented during Larry Smith's Billion Dollar Briefing, hosted by Concept, listed below.
- Artificial Intelligence (AI) Data - The ability for machine learning to create powerful applications across a wide range of applications and industries is severely limited by the availability of adequate training data.
- Carbon Capture - The removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere experiences technical and affordability challenges.
- Climate-Driven Environmental Emergencies - The effects of a changing climate put human systems, like infrastructure, at risk.
- Creativity Tools - Reliable tools to nurture creativity, almost certainly the most important skill of the 21st century, remain elusive.
- Digital Ads - The growing ineffectiveness of online advertising.
- Discovery Tools - Significant obstacles and limitations to research in biological and physical sciences.
- Drones - The use of drones creates safety and security issues for commercial and military stakeholders.
- Educational Games - The ineffectiveness to make games that are successful and contribute to education.
- Engineered Foods - Changing consumer preferences and nutritional awareness challenges processed food manufacturers.
- Fitness Technology - Fitness technologies and operators are challenged to attract and retain consumers long-term.
- Entertainment Machinery - The entertainment industry has a powerfully continuing need for new entertainment attractions and environments.
- Historical Recreations - Museums and historical sites must find ways to compete with modern, easily-accessible forms of entertainment and recreation.
- Human-Proof Cybersecurity - Cybersecurity failures caused by human error or malicious intent.
- Infection Control - The need to disinfect and sterilize environments against biological agents.
- Infrastructure Maintenance - The maintenance of existing infrastructure is becoming critically overdue and expensive.
- Law Enforcement Technology - Evolving criminal methods create challenges for law enforcement agencies.
- Manufacturing Robots - The use of robots in mass manufacturing has been plagued by serious limitations in effectiveness.
- Mosquito Repellent - The need to effectively repel mosquitos and insects without harm to insects or humans.
- Non-Lethal Weapons - The need to restrain persons without causing harm.
- Non-Networked IT - Industrial and power generation facilities need to secure IT that is networked and detached from the rest of their systems.
- Recommendation Engines - The need for recommendation engines to serve e-commerce and search.
- Space Teechnology - Still in its early days, opportunities in space tech are exceptionally wide.
- Speaking Tutor - Education for oral communication and presentation skills.
- Talent Identification - There is a lack of an accurate, reliable and systemic means to assess talent.
- Truth-Teller - The difference between true and false information online.
How to research a problem
Our methodology for identifying important problems allows you to judge importance objectively and dependably. For each chosen problem, conduct the following analysis:
- Start looking for important problems in domains you find personally interesting.
- Document as many examples of important problems as you can find.
- Select a problem for further investigation.
- Analyze the scale, context, and history of the problem. Critically evaluate the past attempts to solve the problem.
If you have any questions, please contact us.
|Spring 2020 competition timeline||Date/Time||Information|
|Application opens||Monday, May 11|
|Problem Lab staff available for 1:1 meetings with potential applicants||
Monday, May 11 - Friday, June 5
|Scheduled on Webex
(Book a meeting with us!)
|Application deadline||Sunday, June 7, 11:59pm|
|Teams accepted after initial screening||Thursday, June 11|
|1:1 mentoring sessions with accepted teams||Friday, June 12 - Friday, June 19
|Scheduled on Webex|
|Pitch deck submission deadline||Wednesday, June 24, 11:59 p.m.||Submission page will be emailed teams in advance|
|Competition semi-finalists notified||Friday, June 26|
|Practice pitch week||Monday, June 29 - Friday, July 3rd||Scheduled on Webex|
|Competition qualifiers||Monday, July 6||Recorded pitches reviewed by judges|
|Competition finalists notified||Wednesday, July 8|
|Quantum Valley Investments® Problem Pitch||Monday, July 13||
Recorded pitches uploaded to YouTube
Funding provided by the Quantum Valley Investments® Problem Pitch Competition is to be used for research and development (R&D) toward a solution to the problem identified. Funds must be used within one year of receiving the monies and will be administered through reimbursement of approved expenses. All receipts and documentation must be provided.
The decision to award one or two competition winners is at the judges’ discretion. Winners may be eligible for additional funding, up to the amount of the initial funding, based on their R&D progress.
The Problem Pitch Competition is made possible by $300,000 in funding from Mike Lazaridis and Doug Fregin, principals of Quantum Valley Investments® and founders of Blackberry.