Complete WESC Guidelines

Guidelines Overview

The contest is open to all UW–Madison students enrolled at half time or more (six-plus credits) during the fall semester, including graduate students and dissertators. Students who register in the fall but graduate in winter of the same year remain eligible to compete. Contestants must be present for judging and the awards ceremony to collect their prizes.

To enter the competition, student(s) [allowable team size is 1-4 people, no more than 4 people per team allowed] must register online and submit their entry forms and project materials by the entry deadline. While an individual student may enter and compete alone, teams with two or more students from different disciplines are likely to be more competitive. Team members may be students from any UW–Madison school or college. Students who have interrupted full-time study with co-op work experience during spring semester are eligible but must attend the contest judging. Returning teams (who have submitted the same entry in spirit or name) must explain changes to their proposal from their previous entry that improves or makes this submission unique - the intention is not to remove the ability to submit the same entry multiple years, but to explain to the judges how you've improved your entry from year to year.

The Dvorak prize will be awarded to the team that demonstrates a technology applicable to the energy field, and entries that feature a patentable idea will generally perform better in the contest. The Global Stewards Sustainable Prize (GSSP) is open to any idea with an environmental or sustainability focus. The initial entry to the WESC (both prizes are judged concurrently with one entry) will consist of a 20 page *maximum* (no minimum to enter) business plan that describes their innovation in the energy or sustainability field, including all appendices, business plan, and financial information.

Teams are encouraged to engage university faculty members or other outside collaborators for expertise and guidance, but only students can participate as official members of the team. The submission must clearly report the contributions of the student team members and any contributions from outside collaborators, and the judging will only take into account the contributions of the UW–Madison students. If students fail to cite contributions by outside collaborators, they will be immediately disqualified.

Submissions, Judging, and Presentations

To enter the competition, you must submit a written report (see below for further information and guidelines). All entries must be submitted online by 8 a.m. CST on February 2nd, 2018. These paper submissions will be evaluated by a panel of judges, and on February 9th, 2018 the top 10 finalists will be notified via e-mail that they should prepare materials for the in-person competition on February 23rd at the Energy Hub Conference. Submit online

Finalists will prepare a tradeshow style exhibit (poster presentation) and an oral presentation (pitch) to be evaluated by the judges for a $5,000 first prize for the Dvorak Energy Innovation Prize and a $5,000 first prize for the Global Stewards Sustainability Prize on February 23rd, 2018. Contestants must be prepared to give an 7 minute oral presentation, followed by a 3 minute question and answer session from judges (10 minutes total). Multimedia support (for video or Powerpoint) will be provided.

At least one member of the team must also be present to display their poster and/or prototype to judges and a general audience at all times during the Energy Hub conference on February 23rd, 2018. All prototypes and/or posters must be on display during that time. Judges will include members of the Dvorak family and additional support from UW-Madison affiliates.

Qualifying Ideas

Each contestant or team will develop an original concept which may include innovations related to energy technology or sustainability broadly. The idea can be a composition-of-matter, device, design, process, power system, service, start-up company, social enterprise, etc. - anything that is innovative and addresses energy or environmental sustainability.

The entry need not be technical, but a prototype or written proof of concept is requested if possible. Contestants may use any reference materials or consult with on-campus or off-campus experts (but must cite any contributions by outside participants). Student teams can submit any class projects to this competition if applicable to the contest. If the submission is based primarily on a class project, then the contestants must fully disclose the intellectual contributions of all members of the class project team. In particular, if some of the class project team members are not members of the competition team, then appropriate permissions must be obtained from the non-participating class project team members.

Contestants in this competition are eligible to compete with the same or related entry in any other UW-Madison or national competition.


All final projects must be submitted online by 8 a.m. on February 2nd, 2018. Each team or individual contestant must prepare a written disclosure (maximum 20 typewritten pages including all appendices and references; a website or video of 4 minutes or less may also be submitted as additional information to the paper submission). Submit online


Each submitted project will be judged on the criteria listed below. Page suggestions below are for guidance only - the only strict page limit is the total of 20 pages (there is no minimum), including figures and tables. Teams are encouraged to use graphics, tables, and formatted text (bullets, underline, bold) to make the project document as readable, professional, and as compelling as possible.

Sample submissions from prior years for your review:

Project Submission Link

You will upload your written report on the final page of the online form. Complete the application process

Define Project Concept (3-4 pages)

Describe the specific aspect of energy or sustainability that your solution addresses. This should serve as an executive summary. Clearly describe your basic idea and how it would be implemented. What strategy has your team taken to improve energy or sustainability? Who will be implementing your proposed project? Whom does this project affect? All answers should demonstrate a competent understanding of the energy or sustainability problems and the role of your solution.

Background Review (2-3 pages)

To fully understand your project, the judges should be presented with appropriate background knowledge on the problem and existing solutions/efforts. In doing this, identify and discuss current research, business initiatives, policies, patents, non-profit initiatives and/or other work that is relevant to your project. Explain how the team's project is new and unique. Detail what innovative approaches the team has taken to address sustainability - what makes it distinct from other solutions that may appear similar.

Energy, Environmental, or Social Impacts (3-4 pages)

Describe how your project helps solve the chosen problem. Exactly how does your project create positive change? Each project will have different impacts, make sure you describe how your team is measuring the idea's impact. What is your definition of project success, and how will it be measured?

For the Dvorak prize it would be advisable include a list of claims, these are novel features that the inventor believes to be original.

Most successful projects have the potential to be implemented and evaluated at a small scale, then - if successful - expanded to larger scales. Consider the impacts you expect from early phases of your idea's implementation, and how these impacts would change if you expand the project in the future.

Financial Feasibility (3-4 pages)

If they are to be implemented, environmentally sustainable ideas need to be financially sustainable as well. What type of financial investment is necessary for the project to be successful? What types of additional funding sources are available for the project? What steps would be necessary to procure this funding?

How do you see your solution becoming a "real-world" option? As a start-up company? Non-profit? Supporting an existing organization?

In explaining the project, define what "market" the project is entering. Is there existing competition? Who are the competitors and what is the team's competitive advantage?

Distribution and Marketing (1-2 pages)

What is the project's target audience or customer, and what makes the project so compelling for this group of people? What is the team's plan to reach them?

Project Timeline (2-3 pages)

For the project to come to life, what milestones need to be met? After you have identified these steps, put together a timeline that defines the critical tasks and the team's strategy for completing them. Every great idea has potential risks. What major roadblocks does your team foresee for this project? After you have defined the likely risks, create a contingency plan describing how the project will avoid or overcome them.

Team Biography (1-2 pages)

For the panel to have a good understanding of the team, please create a short biography of each team member. This should include basic information and related academic activities (grad/undergrad, year, degree, major), relevant extracurricular/work activities, unique skills, and details on the role each member played in the project. When combined, bios should probably not exceed two pages. Major external influences: Please cite any individuals not on the team who have significantly influenced your team's projects, and note briefly each person's role in the creation of your final proposal. This should include any faculty advisors, family members, outside experts, etc.

References (included in the 20-page limit)

Please format citations (if necessary) in a main style, APA is suggested.

Business Plan Competitors

The Wisconsin School of Business | Business Plan Competition (WSBBPC) is the annual entrepreneurial competition organized by the UW Business School. To be considered for the WSBBPC, teams must submit a comprehensive business plan. In an effort to encourage sustainable entrepreneurship, the WESC will accept the business plan from the WSBBPC as meeting the application requirements. However, the proposed business plan must be relevant to energy or sustainability. An online registration form is also required for WESC (register here). Information requested on the registration form may require additional documentation beyond the information included in the WSBBPC submission material. Note that although WSBBPC format submissions are accepted, teams that design their submissions to address the unique goals and criteria of the WESC will have a competitive advantage.

Ownership & Disclosure

Ownership and Disclosure

All owners of the idea or any work put forth must be represented on the team or otherwise noted in clear terms or the entry will be declared ineligible. Failure to fully disclose outside participants, partners, contributors, or other data sources will disqualify an application immediately from the contest. After entry materials have been submitted, we reserve the right to publish information about the contestants' work in university publications and to release information to the media.


If team members have applied for a patent on the invention, this must be disclosed in the entry. The patent application should be included in the entry or linked to if public, however, a patent filing is not required to compete.

Contestants may choose to file patent applications on their own or to disclose their inventions to the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (610 Walnut Street, Madison, WI 53726-2336) before or after the competition.

PLEASE NOTE: The America Invents Act, which took effect in 2013, establishes that the party with the earliest patent filing date ("first to file") shall prevail. In addition, there is a one-year grace period between public disclosure (e.g. the competition) and when a patent application can be filed. It is therefore recommended that inventors file either a provisional or full patent application before public disclosure.

The contest coordinator can provide basic consulting on patent questions/issues. For detailed information on patents and patenting, consult:

Prize Judging Rubrics


Project Criteria What Judges Consider "A good answer"
Project concept How does the overall concept address the GSSP's mission? The team offers an innovative, realistic solution to environmental sustainability.
Well defined scope to meet existing market need What niche does the proposed innovation fill? What will it be competing against and how will it be relevant? The sustainability challenge that is addressed affects human, social, built, and environmental systems on multiple scales. The product or program offers a clear and rational way to address a significant aspect of sustainability.
Environmental Impact Does the product or program offer a measurable benefit to the climate management goals of a particular geographic region, population, and/or economic sector? The proposal addresses the problem in an innovative and environmentally sustainable way.
Financial and Social Aspects Is it financially feasible and socially responsible to bring your idea to life? Numbers reflect that the project is financially viable. Broader consideration of social impacts shows a positive impact.
Project Timeline Does the plan lay out for the necessary steps to bring about project creation? Is sufficient time devoted to each step? The timeline defines the key events and offers a clear method for project creation.
Distribution Who is the project geared toward? Does this relationship make sense? The project plan demonstrates a clear relationship between the project and its intended market
Team Effort Was the majority of effort and innovation on the proposal produced by the UW-Madison student team members? Award recognizes the work of UW-Madison students, working independently and/or effectively engaging with UW-faculty, outside experts, and available campus resources.
The team's overall work and final product Is the final product professional? Has adequate time been given to all the details of the project creation? Entry is polished and the proposal idea is presented in a professional manner.

Dvorak Criteria

Entries will be judged on the following system:

  • 25% — Overall quality and creativity of the energy idea
  • 25% — Written proof of concept or prototype
  • 25% — Market potential of the innovation
  • 25% — Quality of the written materials and oral presentation

Cleantech University Prize (Cleantech UP)

Applications submitted to the Cleantech University Prize by November 30th, 2017 may used for your WESC submission. You may choose for the Cleantech UP application to count for your entire WESC submission, or for a portion of your submission (and upload any additional documentation on the WESC submission form). Keep in mind that the judging rubrics for each competition are slightly different.

However, you must give the WESC coordinator permission to receive your application from Cleantech UP in order for it to be considered for the WESC (there is a place on the WESC submission form to do so). If authorized, the Cleantech UP organizers will send a PDF version of your Cleantech UP application to the WESC coordinator.