Real-World Innovation for PhDs

Versatile PhD (VPhD) has teamed up with some of the world’s leading organizations, including HeroX, a leading platform for open innovation, to provide real-world innovation challenges to our PhD and post-doc community.

This challenge is a S$6.5 million (approximately US$4.8 million) Carbon Zero Grand Challenge that seeks to incentivize innovative solutions to help Singapore achieve net-zero emissions by mid-century and scale to water facilities around the globe. PUB is seeking carbon capture, utilization, removal, and other solutions at any technology readiness level that can be integrated with its operations and reach commercial scale within a decade or sooner. Two phases:
  • Proposal Phase: solvers will submit a detailed proposal addressing net carbon abated, cost, and other critical aspects of their solution. Up to six will be awarded S$250,000 (US$184,800) each to develop a Proof of Concept.

Proof of Concept Phase:  solvers will develop a desktop simulation and/or lab-scale study and a detailed design for a pilot project. Up to two will be awarded S$2.5 million (US$ 1.47m) each to demonstrate a ~1 kiloton-scale version of their solution at a PUB facility in Singapore.  Proposal submissions are due on FEBRUARY 24, 2022, 1 p.m. PST




We’re excited to announce our upcoming PhD-level challenge sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and NASA Tournament Lab!  This is an exceptional career development opportunity for graduate students and post-docs who are motivated to solve an important medical challenge with social impact.
  • National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI), a part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH)


  • Build a Team for HeroX Challenges

  • We would encourage the VPhD community to build a team to compete for this challenge.  There are tools to help you do this (if you need to join a team as well).  Here are a few videos to get you started on how to form or be part of a team, using the team matching feature, and submitting an entry:

Forming a Team

Using the Team Matching Feature

Forming a Team and Submitting an Entry (Full Process)


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NEW INNOVATION CHALLENGE: Design the Future of Point of Care Testing

In America, a person’s background and circumstances can directly impact their ability to receive quality healthcare. Tens of thousands of Americans die every year due to lack of health insurance. Many of the 28 million people currently without insurance live in underserved communities. These systemic and institutional obstacles create a devastating domino effect. Affected populations get diagnosed late, postpone care, struggle to manage chronic conditions, and are at increased risk of poor health outcomes and additional health disparities.

Enter this challenge to help solve the problem.


A 10-week sprint in fall 2021 that utilizes The Opportunity Project framework, resulting in digital and physical art and technology that visualizes 2020 Census Decennial data. The sprint will culminate in a showcase that presents and celebrates the artwork and products created.  Open to University artists, designers, and technologists (and PhD students, of course), as well as Census data and dissemination experts, and community leaders.

Learn more about process and JOIN THE SPRINT at