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The Rolex Awards for Enterprise Scholarship: Apply Now

The Rolex Awards for Enterprise is an esteemed program that recognizes individuals whose groundbreaking projects address major global challenges. For over 40 years, Rolex has supported courageous visionaries working to push the boundaries of human achievement. 

A Legacy of Supporting Pioneering Thinkers

The Awards were established in 1976 by Rolex SA to support individuals dedicated to making significant contributions in the fields of science, technology, exploration, the environment, and health. While other programs provide funding after projects are complete, Rolex uniquely offers financial awards upfront to cover the full costs of proposed initiatives. This approach recognizes that truly transformative work often requires taking risks and overcoming obstacles that bureaucracy and short-term priorities prevent others from supporting.

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Rolex founder Hans Wilsdorf was famous for his courage in developing the Oyster Case, the world’s first waterproof and dustproof watch. He believed that with determination and ingenuity, individuals could overcome seemingly insurmountable challenges. This spirit of pushing boundaries lives on through the Awards, as they uplift those tackling society’s pressing issues in innovative ways. As Wilsdorf said, “Only the fittest shall survive and prosper.”

The Rigorous Selection Process

Applying to the Rolex Awards is no small undertaking. Candidates must submit 15-20 page proposals outlining their groundbreaking project concept, its potential impact, and a detailed budget and implementation plan. Applications are accepted annually between March 1-31.

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A panel of independent international experts thoroughly review each submission based on criteria like originality, feasibility, potential benefit to humanity, and the applicant’s vision and qualifications. Finalists are interviewed in person by the Jury before winners are selected. Notable past jurors have included National Geographic Explorers-in-Residence and Nobel Prize laureates.

While the process is highly selective, receiving even an Honorary Mention can open critical doors. All finalists are invited to the Awards Ceremony, where their work gains global visibility. Winners have their full costs covered, dramatically increasing the chances of successful completion. Five individuals receive the top Awards of €200,000 each year.

Insights from Past Winners

Hearing directly from Rolex Award recipients provides an invaluable perspective on both the challenges they overcame and the impacts achieved. Some highlights:

Dr. Cyrus Engineer (2012 Winner) – Restoring India’s Coastal Salt Marshes

Dr. Engineer’s proposals to reintroduce natural water circulation and plant species reversed severe degradation of Indian salt marshes. The restored ecosystems now support over 100 plant and 100 bird species. He credits Rolex for “believing in an idea that appeared crazy to others” and laments how many potential solutions fail due to lack of early support.

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Dr. Brian Stockwell (2018 Winner) – Helping Smallholder Farmers Adapt to Climate Change

Through a mobile app training thousands of farmers in Malawi, Dr. Stockwell enabled sustainable practices increasing maize yields by 30-100%. He cites how freely discussing challenges with the Rolex network “lit the spark for new collaborations.” Access to Rolex field experts proved equally valuable for refining solutions.

Dr. Amy Smith (2019 Winner) – Developing Therapies for Neglected Diseases

Dr. Smith created inexpensive screening methods to discover potential drug treatments for Chagas disease. She highlights Rolex’s willingness to support “high-risk projects that could result in major benefits but weren’t attractive to traditional funders.” The Award’s trust empowered taking chances necessary for breakthroughs.

Paul Rose (2016 Winner) – Establishing Small-Scale Fisheries Management

Mr. Rose developed community-led plans restoring overfished areas in the Philippines through marine protected areas and monitoring. He credits Rolex for transforming the work from a “passion project to a reality” by providing long-term systematic support that still guides efforts years later.

Dr. Vicki Vance (2021 Winner) – Restoring Coastal Mangrove Forests

Through planting 500,000 mangrove trees in Kenya and Tanzania so far, Dr. Vance has built climate resilience for coastal communities while increasing biodiversity. She emphasizes how the prestige and flexibility of the Rolex Award allow for scaling such ventures globally.

The Application and Nomination Process Explained

The Rolex Awards application period opens each March 1st. Candidates submit proposals online at rolexawards.com with detailed descriptions covering:

  • Project Concept: Overview of innovative ideas, objectives, and activities.
  • Potential Impact: How it addresses an important challenge and expected outcomes and benefits.
  • Implementation Plan: Timeline, budget, qualifications, and partnerships.
  • Self-Evaluation: Reflection on originality, challenges, and long-term vision.

Nominations are also accepted from organizations if the nominating individual meets eligibility criteria. All applications undergo a preliminary review by Rolex before final evaluation.

In June, around 15 semifinalists are selected for virtual interviews. Five winners then receive €200,000 each in October at a ceremony in Geneva. All finalists gain invaluable exposure through participation.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are answers to some common questions people have about applying to the Rolex Awards:

Who is eligible to apply?

Candidates can be of any nationality as long as their project is to be implemented internationally. Applicants must have a proven career record, but there is no age limit. Projects should push boundaries through new ideas or adapting existing concepts to new environments.

What types of projects are considered?

Eligible fields include science and health, technology and innovation, exploration, and projects safeguarding the environment. Initiatives must address challenges facing humanity and have the potential for significant, measurable impact. Both physical and social sciences are within scope.

When are applications due?

Complete proposals must be submitted online between March 1-31 each year. No extensions are permitted. Selection is for the next cycle, which starts in October, so projects must be ready to launch if selected. Late or incomplete applications will not be reviewed.

How strict is the budget requirement?

Budget plans need to demonstrate efficient and effective use of funds. Additional resources from other partners can be listed to showcase broader support and feasibility. While recipients receive €200,000, judicious use of funds to maximize outcomes is prioritized over high costs alone. Multi-year budgets are acceptable.

Can past applicants reapply with revised proposals?

Yes, prior applicants whose projects were not selected are welcome to refine their concept based on juror feedback and re-enter the competition. Significant improvements demonstrating lessons learned increase the chances of moving forward in the process.

APPLY HERE

To submit your groundbreaking initiative for consideration, visit the Rolex Awards for Enterprise application portal:

https://www.rolexawards.com/en/apply-now

The application period for the 2023 Awards opens March 1, 2023. Finalists will be announced in June 2023, with five winners each receiving €200,000 at the prestigious ceremony in October 2023. Spread the word to encourage nominations of deserving change-makers!

In Closing

For over 45 years, the Rolex Awards for Enterprise has provided indispensable support to visionaries dedicated to solving humanity’s greatest problems. By believing in ambitious ideas at their inception, this pioneering program breathes life into concepts that can truly reshape our world for the better. Whether you aspire to be a candidate or simply want to learn from the examples of past recipients, I hope this guide has equipped you with a thorough understanding of Rolex’s vital mission. Their support demonstrates the immense power individuals have to create positive change—given the right opportunities and backing.

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