• What is the specific problem that your business addresses?
  • What metrics will you be using to demonstrate that you’ve achieved your goal?
  • Does your solution work, technically?  Would your customers use your solution if it were available to them?
  • Is the market real?
  • Is your product or service good enough to win that market and be sustainable?
  • What is the business model?

These are some of the questions that the Acara Challenge Teams will have to answer this summer! After a successful run of the 2009 Challenge, Acara is back with the 2010 version of the Challenge which is even more exciting and requires university students to address the following critical issues – ‘Clean Water’ and ‘Clean Energy for Cooking’. We want to use this opportunity to thank all our mentors, university champions, program managers and other team members for helping us through the 2009 Challenge and hope to provide them with a challenging environment to work, this session!

The Acara Institute was created to connect individuals and organizations with an interest in creating sustainable business solutions —and to tackle some of the large challenges facing the globe.  Difficult and largely undefined problems such as “providing clean water” are not likely to be solved by a single person or company. Hence, the Acara Institute provides a challenge and the infrastructure to allow multiple university teams and industry leaders to work together to explore various commercialization concepts.

Acara Institute believes that a successful solution will:

  • Have access to relevant primary field research
  • Provide sustainable business model that is not dependent on ongoing funding
  • Be likely to arise from collaboration between various groups and disciplines

This year’s universities include Indian Institute of Technology(IIT) Delhi, Indian Institute of Technology(IIT) RoorkeeVellore Institute of Technology(VIT), TERI University, University of Minnesota, Arizona State University, Duke University, Cornell University, University of Illinois – Chicago, University of Hartford and Illinois Institute of Technology. The universities are offering for-credit courses to interested students, who want to participate in the Challenge. The Indian universities will work with a nearby community for field research and problem identification. Design Thinking is a very crucial aspect of the Acara Challenge. The business model could be either for a for-profit organization or a non-profit organization, but in either case the same sustainability criteria would be used.

The final deliverable for the competition is a business plan and a  45 -90 minute presentation, including Q&A, that will be made before a panel of judges. The presentation may contain video and any prototypes or artifacts that the team deems appropriate to explain their results. Mid term review of projects will be done. This is not part of any competition scoring but is intended to assess the direction of the projects and provide suggestions to the students.

As part of the Challenge, the winning student teams will then spend two months in residence at the IonE (Institute on the Environment, University of Minnesota) , with hands-on training and working with mentors to launch their business.  During these two months, which includes the travel to India, the business plans will be validated and refined, operating structure established, operations requirements will be determined, finance plans will be established, and a Gantt chart with tasks, dependencies, milestones, deliverables, and “owners” will be created.   Acara will manage the curriculum, tapping into IonE network and establishing IonE as a global center for launching social venture businesses focused on environmental issues.

The Acara Institute wishes all the teams a great success in the Challenge. Let’s change the world!