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The Next Economy
Nike Seeks Material Recovery, Design Ideas with ‘Limitless Potential’

Nike is calling for innovation proposals to help advance its product sustainability. The Nike Circular Innovation Challenge consists of two distinct but connected calls that invite entrants to develop new technologies to advance footwear recycling or create new products using Nike Grind materials. The best proposals will win thousands in cash awards.

The competition will begin with an Ideation Phase, in which participants are encouraged to share concepts, stories, and insights as they develop and refine their proposal. All proposals are due by May 1, 2018. Shortlisted concepts will be invited to the Refinement Phase, where they will build and test solutions to develop a proof of concept.

Nike has been acting against waste since it introduced its Reuse-a-Shoe program in 1990. To date, more than 30 million pairs of used shoes (including shoes from other companies) have been collected and recycled through that initiative. The collected footwear is the basis for Nike Grind materials that have been used around the world in the creation and renovation of more than 1 billion square feet of sports surfaces, such as running tracks, athletic fields, gym floors, and playgrounds. Potential other uses are to be explored through the “Design with Grind” branch of the Nike Circular Innovation Challenge.

Design with Grind

Up to 30 concepts will be shortlisted for this branch of the challenge, which is being hosted in partnership with OpenIDEO. Material innovation kits will be available upon request to aid in prototyping during the Refinement Phase.

Creating Demand for New Product Categories that Involve Unfamiliar Behaviors or Experiences

Hear insights from Dr. Bronner's, Vivobarefoot and more on 'easing people in' to new products (ex: 3D-printed shoes) and formats (ex: refillable liquid soap) that are revolutionizing industries and designing out waste — Tuesday, Oct. 17 at SB'23 San Diego.

“The goal of this challenge is to identify promising new solutions for Nike Grind materials, so we can continue to create products that improve the lives of the people who use them, while reducing waste in the world around us,” a company statement explained.

Up to five winners will be granted cash awards: one grand prize winner will receive $30,000, while up to four additional innovators will receive $5,000 each. However, the company has stated that “all promising proposals will be considered for further partnership with Nike.”

Material Recovery

The Material Recovery branch of the challenge, run in partnership with Nine Sigma, seeks “innovations that can “substantially advance the physical footwear recycling process.” Solutions are expected to complement or replace existing processes to recover purer material inputs, and the most promising will be considered for implementation at a Nike footwear recovery site.

Up to 5 entrants will be selected for this branch’s Refinement Phase and will be invited to further demonstrate their proposed solution. Each of these semi-finalists will receive a development grant of $10,000 to help them create an effective proof of concept by early July. One grand prize winner will be selected in August and will receive a $50,000 cash award. Again, Nike plans to consider all promising solutions for further development and implementation.

The Circular Innovation Challenge is one of several initiatives from Nike in pursuit of its circular economy goals and moonshot to double its business with half the impact.


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