Applications For The Microsoft-Gist Initiative 2020 Imagine Cup Global Tech Pitch Competition Open Now

The Department’s Global Innovation through Science and Technology (GIST) initiative, managed by the OES Office of Science and Technology Cooperation, is excited to partner with Microsoft to offer posts a unique opportunity to engage young local science and technology innovators and entrepreneurs through the Microsoft-GIST Imagine Cup Competition.  Under this joint initiative, students globally can register now to participate in the Microsoft Imagine Cup regional finals scheduled to take place in Singapore, Amsterdam and Mexico City, all leading up to the Microsoft Imagine Cup World Championship in Seattle.

Deadline: December 1, 2019

For nearly two decades, students from around the world have participated in Microsoft’s flagship global technology competition, the Imagine Cup, to bring their unique tech solutions to life.  Microsoft uses the Imagine Cup to engage new technologists around to world to promote platform adaption, expand market access, and source top talent.  By participating in the Imagine Cup competition, young science and tech entrepreneurs will have the opportunity to network with professionals, gain new skills, and get the chance to win funding to further implement their ideas.  GIST has partnered with Microsoft on the Imagine Cup since 2017 by providing entrepreneurship training to the regional finalists that helps encourage young tech-savvy professionals to explore creation of their own startups.  These tech-based startups have gone on to spur economic opportunity and employment.

Currently enrolled high school and college students, 16 and older, can register to compete in the Imagine Cup Competition at and are encouraged to recruit a local mentor to coach them through perfecting their project pitch.  Participants must also utilize Azure for Students and Microsoft Learn to develop their project and record a video of a pitch of the idea for submission.  Each project will be judged on the following criteria: Technology; Diversity, Inclusion, and Accessibility; Innovation; Concept; and Feasibility.

The top two teams from each Regional Final Competition will travel to Seattle in May 2020 to compete in the Imagine Cup World Championship.  The winner will receive a combined award that includes $100,000, $50,000 in Azure grants, and a mentoring session with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.

Background on the GIST Initiative

The GIST initiative is led by the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs’ Office of Science and Technology Cooperation (OES/STC), and connects American businesses with premier foreign entrepreneurs in priority emerging markets.  GIST helps direct the technical expertise of potentially vulnerable young foreign scientists and engineers toward peaceful, commercial applications, in addition to combating the malign influences of China globally.  GIST equips young men and women around the world with the skills they need to become successful entrepreneurs by helping them turn their transformative ideas into new ventures while enabling American business access to foreign-generated innovation.  As such, the program is an integral part of the U.S. government’s efforts to solve some of the world’s most intractable problems—e.g. slow economic growth, unemployment, the social inclusion of women and minorities, and inadequate security—through the promotion of S&T entrepreneurship.

To date, OES/STC’s GIST program has reached over 27 million innovation community members through the Department of State’s social media platforms, mentored over 15,000 startups, and created a network of over 900,000 motivated young entrepreneurs.  These combined efforts have led to remarkable scientific and technological innovations – from revolutionary, self-cleaning solar panel technology to low-cost water filtration systems for rural, off-grid communities. GIST offers a variety of engagement tools including:

  • The GIST Network online innovation hub helps the most-connected generation in history learn from peers and successful entrepreneurs with diverse backgrounds and experiences.
  • GIST TechConnects are monthly, interactive webchats where a live panel of U.S. experts fields questions on entrepreneurship topics from the international community of start-ups.
  • GIST Start-Up Trainings offer on-the-ground training and mentorship to promote in-country entrepreneurship networks, develop local role models, and strengthen innovation ecosystems.
  • The annual pitch competitions, including the Microsoft Imagine Cup, allow entrepreneurs from emerging economies to compete for mentorship, training, and seed capital. Check out for details on this year’s competitions.