The Buckminster Fuller Challenge 2009


MAY 4, 2009 NEW YORK CITY — Sustainable Personal Mobility and Mobility-on-Demand Systems (SPM/MoD), submitted by an interdisciplinary team of students at MIT has been selected as the winner of the prestigious 2009 Buckminster Fuller Challenge. The team will receive a $100,000 prize at a conferring ceremony on June 6th, 2009 at 2pm at The Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago followed by a reception and celebration featuring a presentation by design innovator Bruce Mau.

"Given the nature of the crises we are facing, from climate change to economic collapse, what is important is to demonstrate that the approach to design and problem solving at the core of the Buckminster Fuller Challenge - while always thinking big - has the potential to bring about changes in the near-term. The winning project is a perfect example of the kind of radical, transformative change that is possible when we reconceive the old ways of doing things and take a systems-based approach to design," said The Buckminster Fuller Challenge jurors in a statement about their decision. "SPM/MoD isn't just about the design of these lightweight, highly efficient, electric vehicles, it is about inserting that technological innovation into the social and cultural environment and designing an intuitive system within which they function."

To learn more about the winning strategy, visit:

"We are thrilled with the selection of a team of students as this year's winner. Fuller spent a great deal of his life inspiring and being inspired by university students all over the world," said Elizabeth Thompson, Executive Director of The Buckminster Fuller Institute. "He often chose to work closely with student teams on significant projects. This prompted Fuller in 1961 to propose a 'design science decade' in which universities around the world would engage in a ten-year project studying global trends and needs in an effort to make the world work for everyone. MIT's entry represents the real spirit and substance of such an endeavor applied to a new vision of personal mobility."

In addition to the winner, the distinguished jury selected a runner up and two honorable mentions from a pool of nearly 200 entries. Dreaming New Mexico (DNM), a Bioneers project with support from Google Earth's Outreach program, submitted by Kenny Ausubel and Peter Warshall was selected as the runner-up. DNM is based on the strategic premise that "dreaming the future can create the future." This project provides a systemic template, methodology and collaborative mapping tools for communities to engage in place-based and bioregional planning. Cycle for Health, submitted by Joseph Agoada, Dr. John Baptist Niwagaba, and Patrick Kayemba and Mukuru BioCentres, submitted by Umande Trust and GOAL Ireland, were awarded honorable mentions for their work in Africa to dramatically improve economic conditions and human health.

To view all of the entries to the 2009 Buckminster Fuller Challenge, visit the Idea Index.


Each year a distinguished jury will award a single $100,000 prize to support the development and implementation of a solution that has significant potential to solve humanity’s most pressing problems in the shortest possible time while enhancing the Earth’s ecological integrity.

Category Award / Competition Result
Type International, Award, Open, Two-Stage, Anonymous
Genre Design-Science
Country United States
RegDeadline 7 November 2008 GoogleCal iCal
7 November 2008 (Must be Postmarked)
Eligibility 18 years of age or older

Winning the Buckminster Fuller Challenge will require more than a great stand-alone innovation.

If for example, your solution emphasizes a new design, material, process, service, tool, technology, or any combination, it is essential that it be part of an integrated strategy dealing with key social, economic, environmental, and cultural issues.

Entries must present a bold, visionary, tangible initiative that is focused on a well-defined need of critical importance. They should be regionally specific yet globally applicable, and backed up by a solid plan and the capability to move the solution forward.

We're looking for entries that are:

  • Comprehensive — addressing the interaction of key issues responsible for present conditions; aims to solve multiple problems without creating new ones.
  • Anticipatory — factoring in critical future trends and needs as well as potential long term impacts of implementation.
  • Ecologically responsible — reflecting nature's underlying principles while enhancing the Earth’s life-support systems.
  • Feasible — relying on current technology and existing resources.
  • Verifiable — able to withstand rigorous empirical testing.
  • Replicable — able to scale and adapt to a broad range of conditions.


The winner (individual or team) will receive a $100,000 cash prize to support the on-going development and implementation of their winning solution.

Entry Fee
US $100
A discounted entry fee of $50 is available for students, academics (employees at a university or research institution), people entering on behalf of a registered non-profit, and financially contributing members of the Buckminster Fuller Institute.

Submission by The Entry Form

Semi-finalists invited to submit detailed proposal: January (Date tba)
Final Jury deliberation. Finalists announced: March (Date tba)
The winner of the 2009 Buckminster Fuller Challenge announced: May (Date tba)
Prize conferred at public ceremony (location tba): June (Date tba)

The Buckminster Fuller Institute

Official Website