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Finalists Announced for Wege Prize 2017

Posted April 20, 2017 in Public

Wege Prize, a uniquely transdisciplinary design competition based in West Michigan focused on rethinking and redesigning how our economy works, has selected five teams of college/university students from around the world to move on to the final stage of the fourth annual competition.

Now, those efforts will culminate in a presentation to a panel of leading practitioners and advocates of design thinking and sustainability. At the 2017 Wege Prize Awards on May 19, 2017 at Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University (KCAD) in Grand Rapids, Michigan, U.S.A., the five teams will present their ideas in full to the judges, who will choose a first, second, and third place winner. The top award of $15,000 will be given to the winning team, with awards of $10,000 and $5,000 going to the second-place and third-place teams, respectively.

Wege Prize trophies

At the 2017 Wege Prize Awards on May 19, 2017 at Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University (KCAD) in Grand Rapids, Michigan, U.S.A., the five teams will present their ideas in full to the judges, who will choose a first, second, and third place winner. The top award of $15,000 will be given to the winning team, with awards of $10,000 and $5,000 going to the second-place and third-place teams, respectively.

Teams were asked to create a solution to the following “wicked” problem: How can we create a circular economy? Each team – composed of five college/university students, both undergraduate and graduate, representing different academic institutions and majors of study – had to leverage its transdisciplinary makeup to collaboratively design and propose a product, service, business, non-profit organization, or other solution that could function within and help create a paradigm shift towards a circular economy.

Unlike our current linear model, in which we take, make, and dispose, a circular economic model is restorative by design and aims to keep products, components, and materials at their highest utility and value at all times. Using a systemic approach, teams had to not only design a compelling and innovative solution, but consider its economics and viability within natural, social, and financial systems as well.

Wege Prize is organized by KCAD’s Wege Center for Sustainable Design with support from the Wege Foundation.

“KCAD is proud to work alongside the Wege Foundation to empower students from around the world to be bold and broad in their consideration of the world, their place in it, and the challenges we all face together,” said KCAD President Leslie Bellavance. “Wege Prize is a powerful platform for elevating discourse and inspiring action, and we commend these finalist teams and all of our competitors for their collaborative and creative spirit, their thirst for innovation, and their dedication to realizing positive and lasting change.”

Wege Prize 2016 Finalists

Schools represented: University of Michigan, College of Engineering; University of Michigan, Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy; University of Michigan, School of Natural Resources and Environment

Cheruvu has developed a solution focused on the creation of a sustainable enterprise that employs crop science, machine learning, and crowd analytics to help farmers in developing countries increase crop yields, mitigate risk, and improve their economic standing by providing them with access to high-resolution data on best agricultural practices, soil nutrients, climate, and satellite imagery.

Cheruvu solution excerptCheruvu solution excerpt

Schools represented: Lund University (Sweden), Yale University (United States), The University of British Columbia (Canada)

EcoReturns’ solution is focused on rethinking seafood production in ways that directly address the impact on marine ecosystems while promoting community involvement and consumer engagement. They’ve created an investment model that enables individual and institutional investors to support marine ecosystem restoration and the adoption of sustainable, small-scale management practices in British Columbia’s fisheries while obtaining both ecological and financial returns.

EcoReturns solution excerptEcoReturns solution excerpt

Team: Kulisha
Schools represented: Brown University (United States), University of Michigan (United States)

Kulisha has developed a solution focused on working with food and beverage processing plants to convert their organic waste products into an insect-based protein that can be used in animal feeds and as an agricultural fertilizer. Their system integrates a type of insect called the black soldier fly into food and beverage plants to decrease disposal costs while creating additional value from waste that would otherwise be discarded.

Kulisha solution excerptKulisha solution excerpt

Team: Remade in China
Schools represented: Beijing Normal University (China), Delft University of Technology (Netherlands), Parenthope University of Naples (Italy)

Remade in China’s solution is focused on the development of a modeling tool that can help urban environments develop food, energy, and water systems that unite policy and technology to meet consumer needs while maximizing both the value of resources and the systems’ ability to recover and reuse them.

Remade in China solution excerptRemade in China solution excerpt

Schools represented: Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University (United States), National Autonomous University of Nicaragua (Nicaragua)

SOMOS has developed a solution focused on helping small coffee farmers operating in Nicaragua’s Miraflor Natural Reserve halt the negative environmental impact of their production process while also taking advantage of the waste byproducts of that process to produce other raw materials that can be exported for additional revenue.

SOMOS solution excerptSOMOS solution excerpt

Wege Prize 2017 began with a field of 25 teams representing 38 different academic institutions from 17 countries around the world, including, for the first time, graduate-level students. Over the last five months, teams have developed their ideas from a one-page proposal into a multifaceted design solution informed by their own research, ideation, and experimentation as well as direct feedback from the judges. Now, the five finalist teams will have two months to translate their work into a cohesive and compelling presentation.

“As part of our mission to continue growing the scope and reach of the competition, we opened Wege Prize 2017 up to include graduate students, and we’re thrilled with the diversity­—both disciplinary and geographical—of this year’s field,” shared Gayle DeBruyn, Wege Prize coordinator and Chair of KCAD’s Collaborative Design program. “We’re anticipating well-considered, fully developed solutions from our finalist teams that are both elegant and actionable.”

For the final competition on May 19, the judges will gather in Grand Rapids to converge their own unique perspectives, knowledge, and talents to determine which solution inspires the greatest hope for success. Solutions will be judged on a variety of factors relating to process, understanding of the circular economy, depth of research, effective communication, and economic and logistic feasibility.

Judges include:

Michael Werner– Environmental Program Manager, Google
Mountain View, CA

Colin Webster– Education Programme Manager, Ellen MacArthur Foundation
Endinburgh, United Kingdom 

Gretchen Hooker– Biomimicry Specialist, Biomimicry Institute   
Kalamazoo, MI     

Nathan ShedroffAssociate Professor, California College of the Arts
San Francisco, CA

Christopher Carter – Independent educator, animator, and sculptor
Miami, FL


Those interested in seeing the teams compete in person are warmly encouraged to attend the 2017 Wege Prize Awards event, which is free and open to the public. For those who cannot physically attend, an online live stream of the event will be made available on wegeprize.org.


2017 Wege Prize Awards
Date: May 19, 2017
Time: 10:00am
Location: Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University’s Woodbridge N. Ferris building (17 Pearl St. NW, Grand Rapids, Michigan, U.S.A.)

Event Schedule
9:30am                                  doors open
10:00am – 12:30pm              finalist presentations
12:30pm – 2:00pm                judges’ deliberation/lunch break
2:00pm – 2:30pm                  presentation of awards
2:30pm – 3:30pm                  media/interviews

Individuals with disabilities who require special accommodations to participate should contact the KCAD President's Office at 616.451.2787 x1150 at least 72 hours in advance.