University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota

The Acara program consists of a set of courses, culminating with the Acara Challenge competition. The key entry routes leading into the Acara Challenge social venture plan competition include:

(1) Take CE 5571 Design for Sustainable Development: Innovate (PA 5290 / ARCH 5550), also known as the Acara Challenge Course. Offered in Fall and Spring semesters.

(2) Take CE 5572 Design for Sustainable Development: Create 1 (PA 5290 / ARCH 5550). Offered January term.

(3) Apply directly to the next Acara Challenge competition.

The objectives of the Acara Challenge include:

  • Students will experience a real world situation.
  • Students will seek solutions to a problem — solutions that are creative, sustainable, and have real impact.
  • Program structure will reflect that important problems require teamwork, leadership, and interdisciplinary collaboration.
  • There will be collaboration available outside the regular course.
  • Include ways for students to continue to lead and develop their ideas, after the coursework ends.

The Acara Challenge

At the end of Acara’s courses, CE 5571 and CE 5572, each team proposes a business solution for their identified grand challenge. The proposed venture may be a for-profit or not-for-profit organization. All teams will be judged by a “venture capital-like” panel. The judging criteria are as follows:

  1. Problem and Solution Description: What is the solution? How does it address the problem?
  2. Market description: How the teams identify the market segments? How they assess the parameters of the segment like needs, size, purchasing capacity, etc.?
  3. Sustainable business model: What is the business model? How does it solve the market’s requirement? Is it sustainable?

Judging by the performance of the teams, a few teams will be advanced to the next round, the Acara Challenge competition in February. The Acara Challenge competition is open to all degree-seeking students from the University of Minnesota campuses.

Based on the teams’ performance in the competition top performing teams will receive awards. Following the competition the best teams will be invited to apply for seed funding and ongoing incubation support. Teams will also have an opportunity to participate in the University of Minnesota Acara Summer Institute in India or equivalent in the US.

Numbers/dates may vary, please refer to the specific challenge.


Acara is a social entrepreneurship program of the University of Minnesota Institute on the Environment in partnership with the College of Science and Engineering and the Carlson School of Management.

September 5, 2014 :
Fall Acara Challenge course begins

September 9, 2014:
Acara Open House

October 31, 2014:
Dow SISCA Applications Due

December 4, 2014:
Dow SISCA Final Presentations