The SHAD Entrepreneurship Challenge, focused on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) innovation, is Canada’s only national, project-based entrepreneurship and innovation experience for high school youth. Teams of students participating in the SHAD program are challenged to create a product or service to solve a pressing Canadian or world issue, and experience the creativity and satisfaction of simulating a real world startup project. The Challenge is a chance for participants to demonstrate their innovative spirit and leadership skills.
The national theme is unveiled during the first week of the SHAD program each July. Teams create solutions to the ‘big problem’ by applying scientific principles to develop engineering, design and entrepreneurship projects. The teams derive a real life product or service, conducting market surveys, creating business plans and even engineering working prototypes. A winning team is selected at each campus to complete their projects for the national competition – The SHAD - John Dobson Entrepreneurship Cup – held each fall. Every participant has the chance to help with the winning project and cheer for their campus, and Wild Card teams are also selected for the competition.
Competing projects are judged by panels of experts in several distinct categories, and winners are announced at a gala awards ceremony held annually in October.
The unique startup venture simulation provided by the SHAD Cup competition sets a trajectory of innovation for many SHADs. Close to 20% of SHAD alumni have launched at least one startup, with 60% of alumni startups focused on Information and Communications Technology (ICT), digital media, clean tech, life sciences and engineering. With 85% of SHADs living and working in Canada, the program is demonstrably fueling an innovation culture in Canada.