Kendall College of Art and Design (KCAD)

Kendall College of Art and Design (KCAD)

Grand Rapids, MI


International Sustainability Competition Highlights Today’s Best Ideas - Created by Students from Around the World

By KMS109
Apr 25, '23 10:47 AM EST

For a world reeling from hunger, climate impacts, food waste and inequity, five student teams have stepped forward with expert-reviewed and innovative solutions as part of Wege Prize 2023, with several projects focused on advances in agriculture that cut carbon emissions and sustain developing communities.

These groundbreaking ideas are nurtured by Wege Prize, organized by Kendall College of Art and Design’s Wege Center for Sustainable Design with support from the Wege Foundation. The annual competition ignites game-changing solutions for the future by inspiring college/university students around the world to collaborate across institutional, disciplinary, and cultural boundaries to redesign the way economies work. This year saw 60-plus entries from teams hailing from five continents.

The five competitors, vying for $65,000 USD in total cash prizes, will present their ideas to a public audience in Grand Rapids, Michigan, at 10:00am ET on Friday, May 19 at Kendall College of Art and Design (KCAD) and streaming live online at The diverse, multidisciplinary teams include:

  • Agri ThinkTank: Hailing from Rwanda, students from three institutions devise a tech solution to boost collection of agricultural waste for community composting.
  • Banana Leather: A way to make plant-based leather from mainly banana crop waste results from teamwork in Yale University’s business and environmental management programs.
  • Cellucoat: Students from four countries at University of Calgary innovate with a biodegradable, antimicrobial replacement for plastic packaging—and pollution.
  • Green Poultry Farm: Addressing environmental impacts of poultry farming, students from Mozambique—in four unique majors—use anaerobic digestion to create usable waste streams.
  • UnwasteWater: From four U.S. and European universities, this team tasks microbes to convert wastewater into raw materials for use in industrial and commercial products, closing the circle between the production and disposal of pharmaceutical chemicals.

“These teams demonstrate the power of collaboration and design thinking to address the world’s most critical issues, and they have been confronting these wicked problems over almost nine months in four distinct phases guided by direct feedback from 20 expert judges,” says Gayle DeBruyn, an award-winning KCAD professor who is also leader of Wege Prize.

Want to Build a Better Future?

As part of Wege Prize, the teams have turned their ideas, starting as informal proposals, into robust and feasible solutions. With the input of expert judges, the five finalist teams employ research, market analysis, and real-world prototyping and testing to advance their plans.

“These inspired, dedicated students are innovators and disruptors in ways that offer a glimpse of the bright and optimistic future,” adds DeBruyn. “What makes it possible? Collaborating across institutional, disciplinary, and cultural boundaries to redesign the way economies work.”

Established in 2013, Wege Prize encourages student teams to solve complex, layered problems with a diverse, collaborative approach. The competition’s rules and design brief call for developing new, tangible solutions to producing and consuming essential goods — in sustainable ways that can be applied and used after the competition ends. 

LIVE EVENT: 2023 Wege Prize Awards, Friday May 19

This year, the Wege Prize Awards is once again a free, in-person program held at KCAD in Grand Rapids, Mich., with an accompanying free livestream that will be watched globally starting on Friday, May 19 at 10:00am ET.  The five finalist teams include students from:

Canada             Germany                India           

Iraq                   Mozambique           Nigeria

Rwanda            United States          United Kingdom

Watch the students defend their ideas and respond to final judge feedback along with a worldwide audience. To attend 2023 Wege Prize Awards: Game-Changing Solutions to Wicked Problems, or to view the livestream, please find event details and registration at 2023 Wege Prize.

Visit for more details.          


About Wege Prize

Wege Prize, a West Michigan-born concept developed by Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University’s (KCAD’s) Wege Center for Sustainable Design with the support of The Wege Foundation, is an annual competition that ignites games-changing solutions for the future by inspiring college students around the world to collaborate across institutional, disciplinary, and cultural boundaries and redesign the way economies work.

About KCAD

Located in the heart of downtown Grand Rapids, Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University (KCAD) is committed to creating lasting impact in West Michigan and beyond through collaborative partnerships, cultural innovation, and an educational model that prepares students for leadership in design, the visual arts, and art history; provides innovative, collaborative education that fosters intellectual growth and individual creativity; and promotes the ethical and civic responsibilities of artists and designers, locally and globally. For more information, please visit

About The Wege Foundation

Planting seeds that develop leaders in economicology, health, education, and arts, and enhance the lives of people in West Michigan and around the world. For more information, please visit