Cisco offering $1 million USD in prizes to social innovation focused startups

Multinational technology conglomerate Cisco Systems is offering $1 million USD in prizes to up to 20 emerging startups as part of the 2021 Cisco Global Problem Solver Challenge.

The accelerator competition is now in its fifth year and aims to recognize new business ideas that leverage technology for social impact from early-stage entrepreneurs around the world. The prize money is designed to accelerate the adoption of breakthrough technology, products, and services that drive economic development and/or solve social or environmental problems.

The accelerator competition aims to recognize new business ideas that leverage technology for social impact.

The application deadline for the 2021 competition is January 29, 2021, at 5 p.m. (PT). The overall $1 million USD is broken down into multiple prize opportunities. This year’s grand prize is $250,000 USD, with regional runner-ups from the Americas, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and Russia (EMAER), and Asia Pacific, Japan, and China (APJC) receiving $75,000. The remaining $525,000 will be awarded in multiple other categories, including People’s Choice, ethical AI and pandemic response, among others.

Individuals, and teams or businesses of up to five members are eligible to participate. Semi-finalists will be asked to submit during the next phase of the competition on March 30, with submissions closing on April 23. Finalists will be announced on June 2, with winners announced on June 29.

In July, Cisco launched a contest for entrepreneurs in Canada and the US to win a Small Business Recovery Kit, which included IT tools aimed to help businesses remain resilient amid the COVID-19 pandemic. That competition focused on three IT challenges Cisco identified during the crisis: remote work, cybercrime protection, and improving productivity and security in new physical workspaces.

In 2020, Savana Circuit Tech won the $100,000 USD grand prize with a solar chilling transit system for dairy businesses and cooperatives in sub-Saharan Africa to cut post-harvest losses.

Full 2021 contest details are available at

Scott McLean

Scott McLean

Former public affairs professional. Retired amateur comedian. Vegetarian. Journalist.