Broadcaster Tavis Smiley, in partnership with the A. James Clark School of Engineering at the University of Maryland, will launch a $75,000 TS/UM Social Innovation Challenge to address some of society’s most pressing issues in three key areas: hunger, education and sustainability.

The inaugural TS/UM Social Innovation Challenge invites aspiring entrepreneurs to develop transformative solutions to effect positive change for individuals and communities across the nation. The Challenge serves as a prompt for diverse groups of people to come together to solve specific societal issues by harnessing inventiveness and bringing innovative ideas to the marketplace.

Submissions will be evaluated by a panel comprised of representatives from academia, business, community/grassroots, government, nonprofit groups and the technology community. The winners will be announced in January 2014.

The TS/UM Social Innovation Challenge supports Tavis Smiley’s initiative to dramatically reduce poverty in America and the University of Maryland’s commitment to increase the number and quality of new businesses inspired by competition to create a large and strong new generation of entrepreneurs who benefit society.

“Solutions to the many daunting problems facing the United States and the global community will come from a diversity of thinking in the areas of science, engineering and technology,” Smiley told “I can think of no better way to invest in our collective well being than to invest in the minds of the future.”

Adds Darryl Pines, dean and Nariman Farvardin Professor of Aerospace Engineering at the Clark School, “I believe that competitions are crucial to create a climate of innovation and entrepreneurship, and for driving new advances in targeted social areas. The future economic growth and competitiveness of the United States depends on our capacity to innovate.”

The TS/UM Social Innovation Challenge will award a minimum of $25,000 each to three social innovators, one in each of the target impact areas of hunger, sustainability and education. Additionally, each winning entrant will have an opportunity to appear on the Tavis Smiley Network, receive an entrepreneur mentorship at the Clark School’s Maryland Technology Enterprise Institute (Mtech), and showcase their innovation at Platform Summit 2014.

Key Information for Challenge Entrants:

Entrants’ submissions must include a written executive summary and short video articulating the issue being solved; methodology; a sense of the potential local, national and global impact of the solution; and more.

* Friday, July 12-September 13: Pre-registration for announcements and award increase

* September 13, 9 a.m. EST: Entrants may register online (no cost) and post project submissions

* October 13 at 5 p.m. EST: Deadline for entrants to register online (no cost) and post project submissions

* Nov. 2013: Finalists will be notified and invited to pitch their idea to the panel of judges

* Jan. 2014: Winners will be listed on and announced on the TAVIS SMILEY NETWORK

The winners and the three promising projects will share a minimum of $75,000 in cash prizes. For more information, visit or via Twitter #socialinnovator.

A key aspect of the TS/UM Social Innovation Challenge is its emphasis on collaborations to advance social innovation. For donors or partners interested in making a financial contribution to increase the cash award for solutions to promising innovators, please contact Denise Pines at (323) 290-1182 or