The Buckminster Fuller Challenge

Each year a distinguished
jury awards a $100,000 prize to support the development and implementation of a strategy that has significant potential to solve humanity’s most pressing problems and the results are in!

Congratulations to the winning proposal by the Smart Cities Group at the MIT Media lab: Sustainable Personal Mobility and Mobility-on-Demand Systems.


Sustainable Personal Mobility and Mobility-on-Demand Systems
Runner-Up: Dreaming New Mexico
Honorable Mentions: Cycle for Health and Mukuru BioCentres

A Design Science Revolution

Buckminster Fuller's prolific life of exploration, discovery, invention and teaching was driven by his intention “to make the world work for 100% of humanity, in the shortest possible time, through spontaneous cooperation without ecological offense or disadvantage of anyone.”

Fuller coupled this intention with a pioneering approach aimed at solving complex problems. This approach, which he called “comprehensive anticipatory design science”, combined an emphasis on individual initiative and integrity with whole systems thinking, scientific rigor and faithful reliance on nature's underlying principles. The designs he is best known for (the geodesic dome, the Dymaxion house, car, and map, and the global electric grid) were part of a visionary strategy to redesign the inter-related systems of shelter, transportation and energy.

After decades of tracking world resources, innovations in science and technology, and human needs, Fuller asserted that options exist to successfully surmount the crises of unprecedented scope and complexity facing all humanity – he issued an urgent call for a design science revolution to make the world work for all.

Answering this call is what the Buckminster Fuller Challenge is all about.

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.

We want the winning solution to be what Fuller called a trimtab – a catalyst inserted into a failing system at the right time and place that accelerates the transition to an equitable and sustainable future.