Blockchain Innovation Challenge

About the Challenge

​​​​​​​​​​​The Blockchain Innovation Challenge will make awards totaling $900,000 to ecosystem-first designed approaches driving interoperability, social mobility, and learner control.

We are seeking technology-enabled solutions that reorient the education and employment ecosystem around the individuals that they aim to serve.

This challenge invites teams to articulate a vision and design pilots that address the following themes:

  • Empower all learners: How can learners exercise agency over their digital identities, including all records of learning, so they can share them in a secure, validated, and machine-readable way?
  • Unlock lifelong learning: How can learning be better documented, validated, and shared no matter where it occurs? How can control or ownership of learning records improve the way underserved learners connect and unlock disparate learning opportunities?
  • Improve economic mobility: How can blockchain support learners to find in-demand education in employment-relevant skills to advance economic mobility and to fulfill the promise of higher education?​​

Key Opportunities

Teams must address three important characteristics of an ecosystem-first design approach uncovered through Connected Impact: Unlocking Education and Workforce Opportunity Through Blockchain with a goal of helping individuals to achieve social and economic mobility:

  • Building community and consensus:​ Networks of institutions and organizations are important precursors to many blockchain initiatives in education. By cultivating these communities to solve a common challenge and then engineering the blockchain solution as the connective tissue to pull existing components of the ecosystem together, we can reorient around the needs of learners.
  • Interoperability and open design: Solutions that leverage open data standards and protocols are critical to the mobility of individuals between the multiple learning and employment domains in their lifetime. See Understanding Interoperability for Education Blockchains for more information on interoperability standards compliance.
  • Data literacy and agency: Distributed ledger technology holds the potential to provide individuals with immediate access to their digital data, the ability to control who can view it, and a way for their data to be verified without contacting the issuing parties—allowing individuals to traverse seamlessly along a lifelong pathway of learning and work. Applicants should be sure to address how they can counter the digital skills and data literacy divide, which holds potential to compound disparities for traditionally underserved populations.

Anticipated Timeline​​​

How to Participate

The application document can be accessed here (PDF) and is open to diverse teams of solvers from educational institutions, training providers, technology platforms, employers, certification and credentialing organizations, and more.​​​ Applications can be submitted through October 30, 2020.

Who Should Apply?

The Blockchain Innovation Challenge is open to teams of innovators who are seeking to positively affect and empower U.S. learners through ecosystem-first designs.

A team approach is required and should at a minimum consist of education institutions and technology providers. Additionally, we encourage applicants to consider engaging employers, community-based organizations, student groups, and any other organization that is critical to the ecosystem.

For a full list of rules and eligibility criteria please see the Application Guidelines document (PDF).

How Do I Apply?

Applications must be submitted through the ACE Blockchain Innovation Challenge portal as a PDF. Any submission received by ACE that did not come through the portal will not receive consideration.

Proposals that do not adhere to the specifications below will not be considered.

Structure and Formatting Requirements

To ensure that text is easy to read for reviewers and that all applicants have the same amount of available space in which to describe their projects, proposals must adhere to the page, font size, and format specifications (including citation footnotes).

 Length

  • Applications may not exceed 15 pages in length.
  • Applications should include a short form summary of the initiative that concisely describes and summarizes the project and its objectives.
  • Additionally, applicants may include an appendix (maximum five pages) with resumes and bios for key team members.

 Pages

For the purposes of applications for the Blockchain Innovation Challenge, a “page” is 8.5 inches x 11 inches, with 1-inch margins at the top, bottom, and both sides.

 Spacing

At a minimum, single space all text in the proposal, including titles, headings, footnotes, quotations, references, and captions, as well as all text in charts, tables, figures, and graphs.

 Font

Proposals must be submitted using the Calibri regular font type, with no letters being smaller than 12-point font size in Microsoft Word.


Before applying, carefully review all of our application requirements, rules, eligibility, and terms and conditions in the Application Guidelines document (PDF).

Prizes & Criteria

Prizes

The competition will be conducted in two phases. Winning teams will share up to $900,000 in prize money. Phase 1 winners will be awarded up to $150,000 each. Teams that demonstrate interoperability of their Minimum Viable Product (MVP) will receive Phase 2 funding for full implementation of the pilot.

Up to four Phase 2 winners share the remaining prize balance.

In addition, winners will:

  • Receive national recognition through a variety of channels.
  • Receive leadership opportunities in community engagement to share lessons learned and best practices.
  • Be featured in ACE communications about the Education Blockchain Initiative.
  • Play a key role in working with ACE and other stakeholders to develop potential governance standards.
  • Receive mentorship from leading technology firms.
  • Other opportunities may also be announced.

Evaluation Criteria

Applications will be evaluated on the following criteria (please see the Application Guidelines document (PDF) for detailed definitions):

  • Quality of the ecosystem-first design approach
  • Quality of the technological approach
  • Quality of the management plan and adequacy of resources

For additional information, visit the FAQ section below, join the Blockchain Innovation Group on ACE Engage, or email ebi@acenet.edu.

Apply

Once you have finished your application in accordance with the formatting and content requirements, you are ready to submit your proposal!

Simply click the button below and follow the prompts to upload and submit a PDF of your application.

Submit Application
FAQ

Still have questions about participating in the Blockchain Innovation Challenge? Find answers to frequently asked questions below.

 Can I submit more than one application?

Applicants can be part of, or submit, more than one proposal. The teaming approach offers this kind of flexibility. If you are the primary applicant on more than one submission, please ensure your proposals are numbered and each has a unique file name.

 Can my submission use an existing platform, or do I need to create a new blockchain system?

It’s your choice! We are excited to receive applications for all stages of blockchain solutions. If your proposal builds on an existing blockchain solution that has a track record of success, we want to see how you plan to scale, repurpose, and/or expand your ecosystem.

It is permissible to leverage a commercial blockchain system. However, keep in mind that we encourage proposals to design the blockchain application leveraging open technology standards as a means to achieving interoperability. Also, ensure the application is compliant with the terms and conditions of the challenge (these can be found in the Application Guidelines document (PDF)).

 I missed the Blockchain Innovation Challenge Launch Event webinar. Is there a recording I can watch?

You can watch the 57-minute recording of the Blockchain Innovation Challenge launch event, held August 19, 2020, on ACE Engage, ACE's peer-to-peer online learning platform.

For additional background on the event, including a list of speakers, please visit the event page.

 Who can apply?

Applicants can be individuals or teams.

  • Individuals must be U.S. citizens and at least 18 years of age. Non-U.S. citizens may be part of a U.S.-based team.
  • Organizations must be registered according to local laws and have their primary place of business in the United States.
    • Organizations may include, but are not limited to, nonprofit and for-profit organizations; institutions of higher education, such as colleges and universities; and elementary and secondary schools.
  • Applicants will be encouraged to apply in teams in order to create new connected ecosystems through blockchain.

For a complete list of our eligibility criteria please download our Application Guidelines (PDF).

 I keep seeing “teams” and “partnerships.” What does that entail?

The Challenge has an ecosystem-first requirement. Your team should include leaders from multiple organizations that will meet the objectives of the proposal.

  • It is not required that each member of the team be part of the application but it is strongly encouraged that your proposal include an engagement plan for those key stakeholders.

Members of a team could include, but is not limited to:

  • Postsecondary education providers
  • K-12 education providers
  • Statewide education systems
  • Technology providers
  • Employers
  • Student/learner groups

 How much will Challenge winners receive?

The Challenge will fund up to four projects, with a maximum collective award of $900,000.

 How do I apply?

To apply, download the Application Guidelines (PDF) and follow the instructions to complete your proposal. Once your application is complete you must submit it through the application portal.

Please note that you may not submit updated proposals. If you experienced a user or technical error when submitting your proposal, please email ebi@acenet.edu.

 When is the application deadline?

Applications must be submitted by October 30, 2020. Late applications will not be considered.

 How will my Challenge submission be evaluated?

Application evaluations will focus on the ability to generate impact on the Challenge’s core goals and opportunities as well as the quality and ability to execute the:

  • Ecosystem-first design approach
  • Technological approach
  • Management plan and adequacy of resources

 Tell me more about the Minimal Viable Product (MVP).

Applications should include a clearly described MVP that they can execute and demonstrate by the end of Phase 1. Additionally, MVPs must demonstrate compliance with the interoperability standards detailed in this document.

 Can my Challenge submission build on existing work or should it be new?

Applications can either build a brand new design, or build on existing work. We encourage applications that involve emerging and/or growing projects versus those that are late-stage with a demonstrated, established record of success at scale.

 Don’t see an answer to your question?

Join the Blockchain Innovation group on the ACE Engage platform to connect directly with the BIC team and the growing community of innovators in the group.

You can also email the BIC team at ebi@acenet.edu any time with questions about the Challenge and the application process.

Join the Challenge

Carefully review all of our application requirements, rules, eligibility, and terms and conditions prior to applying.

Submit Application