Call for abstracts for student-led Best Idea 2021 Competition

We have launched the call for abstracts for our Best Idea 2021 Competition, giving student-led teams from our Members the chance to design and showcase their ideas on how science and technology contribute to sustainability.
2nd September 2020
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Are you, or do you know, a student or PhD candidate with a brilliant idea for how science and technology can help revolutionise our society’s efforts towards sustainability?

Then our Best Idea 2021 Competition is your opportunity to enter a team and benefit from unrivalled access and support from over 50 leading universities of science and technology across Europe, with the potential to win a cash prize of €20,000!

We are especially looking for concepts that have emerged (bottom-up) from student-led teams already collaborating around well identified scientific and societal needs and goals. Such a concept can originate from completely novel approaches to answer scientific questions or to respond to the need of specific stakeholders in society.

Diversity in teams, ideas and how you approach the competition is highly encouraged! To accommodate this, the competition is flexible and the evaluation and assessment will be carried out in two stages by an independent and diverse expert panel.

A Guide for Applicants containing all the information that you or your students need to apply can be found on this page. We encourage you to forward the details of the competition to students and PhD candidates at your institution.

Students are invited to register for the online information workshop which takes place on 15 October from 13:30 to 15:00, presenting the competition and providing an opportunity for potential entrants to ask questions to the organisers.

How to enter?

The students from our Members are encouraged to motivate inter-institutional, inter- and transdisciplinary and vertically integrated teams to enter this competition. The abstracts and the designed ideas will be evaluated along three dimensions:

  • Scientific excellence
  • Impact and outreach
  • Management and implementation

The deadline for submission of abstracts is 31 January 2021.

An independent Evaluation Panel will evaluate the abstracts and the successful teams will be invited to pursue their ideas under the guidance of the Workgroup Best Idea 2021 until summer 2021. During spring and summer 2021, the selected teams will be invited to contribute to a joint conference on this topic hosted by the Royal Academy of Engineering in London and to contribute to white papers on ´linking SSH and STEM´ and on ‘contribution to sustainability’.

By summer 2021, the selected teams must decide whether they wish to undergo a second assessment. The Evaluation Panel will assess the designed ideas, identify the excellent and mature ones and these teams will be invited to present their ideas to the CESAER Annual Meetings (CAM) in October 2021 in Lund (Sweden). A winner will be announced and obtain the prize Best Idea 2021 worth €20,000. Our association will provide support and guidance in showcasing these ideas.

The Competition Best Idea 2021 is a flagship event of CESAER as we celebrate the landmark of our association’s thirtieth anniversary year from October 2020 to October 2021.


Frequently Asked Questions

Do you want to enter our Best Idea 2021 Competition, but have a few questions? Have a read of our frequently asked questions that cover how to apply, how the competition is judged and more. This information will be constantly updated along the questions we receive from potential entrants.

Who can enter the competition?

We are looking for inter-institutional, inter- and transdisciplinary and vertically integrated teams that are already collaborating on a concept. Teams must be student-led. The leader of the team must be enrolled as a bachelor student, a master student or a PhD candidate at one of our Member universities (full list here) at the date of the submission of the abstract. Teams must include at least one member of staff (at the date of the submission of the abstract) from one of our Member universities (full list here).

How big can the team be?

There is no minimum or maximum team size.

How many Member universities of CESAER must be involved in the team?

At least one. However the more Member universities are involved in the team, the higher scoring in the evaluation.

Can external, non-university partners join the team?

We encourage the teams to include external participants to be members of the team, this includes partners from industry, government, non-governmental organisations, civil society and similar.

How do we enter the competition?

To enter the competition, you are invited to prepare a short abstract (maximally two A4 pages) describing your concept for how science and technology can help revolutionise our society’s efforts towards sustainability, and outlining an implementation plan and your team composition. Before you prepare your abstract, make sure you read the Guide for Applicants carefully.

When is the deadline to submit our abstract?

You have until 31 January 2021 to submit your abstract via email to indre.antanaviciute@cesaer.org and the competition closes at 23:59 CET on 31 January 2021.

How should we demonstrate our idea’s contribution to sustainability?

The abstract must identify one or more areas of sustainability where it seeks to contribute. We use a broad and flexible approach to define sustainability based on the UN SDG. For example, contributions related to COVID-19 can identify UN SDG 3.

Must the idea we submit be new?

We are explicitly not looking for new ideas, but for concepts that have emerged (bottom-up) from student-led teams already collaborating around well identified scientific and societal needs and goals. We expect the the teams to develop their concepts towards designed ideas during the competition.

How will the submitted ideas be evaluated and the winner be decided?

In this competition, we take a two-stage evaluation and assessment approach. An independent Evaluation Panel will evaluate the abstracts. The successful teams will be invited to pursue their ideas under the guidance of the Workgroup Best Idea 2021 and advance the abstracts towards excellent and mature ideas until summer 2021. By summer 2021, the competing teams must decide whether they wish to undergo a second assessment. The Evaluation Panel will assess the designed ideas, identify the excellent and mature ones and select the winner.

When will the winner be announced?

We will announce the winner during the CESAER Annual Meetings (CAM) in October 2021 in Lund (Sweden).

What support will the teams get during and after the competition?

The teams selected after the first evaluation will get guidance, coaching and mentorship from mentors assigned to them. All teams who underwent a second assessment and were assessed excellent and mature will continue to receive support developed together with the team and tailored to their needs. These teams will also receive €1,000 for communication and outreach.

Selected teams will be invited to attend our CESAER Annual Meetings hosted by Lund University from 13 to 15 October 2021 and showcase their ideas at the high-level conference. All travel and accommodation costs will be covered.

They will also be invited to contribute to a joint conference hosted by the Royal Academy of Engineering in London and to contribute to white papers developed by CESAER.

Who owns the Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) resulting from the work of the teams participating in this competition?

It is completely up to the teams to determine how IPR are allocated. In fact, this concerns a major topic to address upfront as IPR are considered crucial to move from a good (scientific) concept towards a concrete solution contributing to sustainability. We advise all teams to liaise with the relevant departments within their university and encourage all universities to provide professional support to their teams in this respect. In any case, CESAER does never aspire to own any IPR resulting from the work of the teams participating in this competition.

How can I disseminate the competition in my institution?

Share the information within your institution, for example with the student services, student affairs, student union, and relevant departments and faculties. Consider holding an event within your institution to promote the call (we can help with this!). Use the dissemination toolkit within your institution and consider sharing it with your communications staff, the toolkit includes a promotional video, an image for use on social media, a sample message for social media and an A2 poster for display within your institution.

If you cannot find the answer to your question in these FAQs or the Guide for Applicants, please contact our Advisor for Higher Education at indre.antanaviciute@cesaer.org.

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