The Tibetan Innovation Challenge was an intercollegiate social entrepreneurship business plan contest, organized by the University of Rochester, aiming to improve the lives of Tibetans living in refugee camps in India through self-sustaining and replicable business ideas. It was held from 2015 – 2017.

A similar competition is being held by YETI, the Youth Employment for Tibetans Initiative. The deadline to apply is March 31, 2019. For more information, visit Tibet Innovations.


The Tibetan Innovation Challenge was founded in response to the Dalai Lama’s concern over the outflow of young Tibetans leaving their communities in search of gainful employment. Tibetan refugees face many economic difficulties, which this competition hopes to mitigate by empowering Tibetans to take greater control of their own economic futures. Teams of students from colleges and universities will develop practical business ideas for Tibetan refugees to implement within their communities, with the goal of creating enterprises that will have a meaningful and positive long-term economic impact. The Tibetan Innovation Challenge will connect the brightest, most innovative minds from the nation’s top colleges and universities with underserved populations who stand to benefit from their ideas. The best ideas will be replicable within similar communities and populations in other parts of the world.

All of the business plans generated during the competition are given to the Tibetan refugee community to form the foundations of new Tibetan business ventures. These enterprises are partially financed by the Tibet House in London and The Art of Peace Foundation.


  • Teams must meet eligibility requirements.
  • Teams are encouraged to seek mentorship and advisement from faculty, staff, alumni, entrepreneurs, and Tibetan mentors (request to be matched with a Tibetan mentor); however, these advisers may not contribute to the team’s business plan.
  • All teams must submit an application, a two-page executive summary, a one-page financial snapshot, and the link to a five-minute video overview of the plan, uploaded to a platform such as YouTube or Vimeo. Teams selected to advance to the finals will submit a complete business plan. View proposal requirements.
  • By entering the competition, students understand that all submitted plans are for the benefit of Tibetan refugees and may be implemented with or without student involvement.
  • All participants agree to allow the University of Rochester to use their names and likenesses for the purpose of promoting the Tibetan Innovation Challenge in the future.


Round 1: Students submit a proposal for the qualifying round in April 2017. Submissions are evaluated by a panel of judges to select the finalists.

Round 2: Finalists will compete at the International Finals in June 2017. The winners will be selected by an esteemed panel of judges, including high-profile Tibetans.

Student submissions should include an application along with a two-page executive summary and the link to a video presentation uploaded to a platform such as Vimeo or YouTube.

Submissions are due to by 11:59pm on Monday, April 3, 2017. If selected for the International Finals, a full business plan will be due in May 2017.

View submission guidelines.




View Student FAQs.

There are many populations in need who could benefit from a competition such as this one, and it is our intent that the Tibetan Innovation Challenge will serve as a model for other competitions to serve similarly challenged populations around the globe. Tibetan refugees face many economic, legal, social and political difficulties, as well as the added challenge of trying to preserve the rich culture of a people whose history dates back over 2,000 years. The Dalai Lama has expressed deep concern over the outflow of young Tibetans who are forced to leave their communities in search of gainful employment. The Tibetan Innovation Challenge intends to respond to this concern by stimulating the development of self-sustaining and replicable business ideas. The founder of competition partner The Art of Peace Foundation, Michael Wohl,  is a University of Rochester alumnus.

There is no fee for universities to participate. However, If selected to advance to the National Finals in June 2016, your university’s team and/or your university will be responsible for all expenses associated with travel and accommodations for the final competition. Participating universities may also want to budget for sending faculty and staff to the finals. National Finals details TBA.

No, but all team members must be enrolled college or university students as of March 1, 2017.

Stay tuned to our Judges page or follow us on Twitter to hear about the 2017 judges as they’re confirmed.

Universities can also nominate a judge for the International Finals.

The first-prize winners in the National Finals will be awarded $5,000. The second place team may also receive a cash prize. All of the submitted plans have the opportunity to form the foundations of real businesses in the Tibetan refugee community.


Have questions or comments? We will get back to you soon.


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