What is the Universal Design Grand Challenge?

Each year, the Centre for Excellence in Universal Design (CEUD) at the National Disability Authority (NDA) runs the Universal Design Grand Challenge Student Awards (UDGC). This competition has been a significant event in our calendar since 2014, and each year we continue to be amazed at the creativity and commitment to inclusion and Universal Design demonstrated by the students who enter, and the academic tutors/supervisors who support them.

The UDGC is a competition that promotes and awards excellence in student projects that feature solutions that work for everyone. We invite third level students in their final two years of study to enter their best project which demonstrates the use of the Principles of Universal Design. We are delighted to accept entries from undergrads, postgrads, and recent graduates.

Winners are chosen in 3 categories:

  • Built Environment
  • Technology
  • Products and Services

In addition, at the UDGC final each year, a Peoples' Choice Winner is chosen by audience members. The winner of each category receives a cash prize and the coveted Universal Design Grand Challenge trophy for that category.

Over the past number of years, we are delighted to have partnered with Enterprise Ireland, who have awarded one entrant a “Universal Design Commercialisation Award”. This award enables the recipient to undertake a feasibility study to determine if the project can be commercialised.

Why Should You Enter?

The competition application process is a great learning opportunity for all students. It challenges you to really examine how you can create designs that work for everyone in society. The more universal your design, the more people it works for and therefore the more successful it will be. Just completing the application will open your eyes to the value of Universal Design.

Finalists in the competition will receive expert pitch training in how to present their design. Past winners of this competition have gone on to win further awards and develop their design commercially.

How Do You Enter?

The 2023 UDGC has concluded. We will update this section of the page with specific information on how to enter in early 2024, so please do check back then. However, the process can broadly described as:

  1. Giving a brief description of your design idea
  2. Explaining how the design / solution is used
  3. Highlighting how the Principles of Universal Design are incorporated into your design (your design should feature at least 4 of the 7 Principles)
  4. Uploading supporting images, presentations or videos.

You can enter as a solo student or as part of student project design team. In your application, you must list a course tutor or school representative who knows your design and can confirm the information in your application.

What Happens Next?

After all entries are received, the following then happens:

  • A panel of International Judges will review all of the applications. This will result in a shortlist of projects for the final in each of the 3 categories.
  • The 9 finalists are then announced.
  • We offer all finalists the chance to avail of expert coaching on how best to pitch their design idea at the UDGC final.
  • Finalists, accompanied by guests and the college tutor/supervisor, will attend the Live Universal Design Grand Challenge National Final Ceremony.
  • Finalists will pitch their designs to panels of judges, and a winner in each category will be announced. The winners of the “People’s Choice” and the Enterprise Ireland “Universal Design for Commercialisation Award” are also announced.

This is an exciting competition and a great opportunity to develop your Universal Design skills. These skills will make you a better designer for life. Remember Universal Design is just good design!

The Universal Design Grand challenge (UDGC) 2023 has now concluded. This year, we had some fantastic entries, and our judges were absolutely amazed at the quality and standard. Well done to everyone who took the time to enter.

We held the final on 26th October 2023 at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Our nine finalists presented their ideas, and our judges then had the really difficult task of choosing the winner. Our keynote address was delivered by Dr Larry McNutt. Why not take a look at our fabulous finalists?

We will be posting videos and images from the event in due course. In the meantime, our winners were as follows.

  • Built Environment: The Steam Mill, Wellness Centre, Skibbereen, Munster Technological University, submitted by Emma Sweetnam with Dr. Marc O' Riain as supervisor.
  • Products and Services: TremTrack, Trinity College Dublin, Submitted by a team comprising of Affraic Brophy, Bethany McKittrick, Caoimhe Rogers, Christopher McFadden and Daniel Diez Clarke, with Prof. Tríona Lally as supervisor.
  • Technology Leva App & Buddy, Maynooth University, submitted by Jule Loescher, with Trevor Vaugh and Dr. Threase Finnegan-Kessie as supervisors.
  • Enterprise Ireland Commercialisation Award: TremTrack, Trinity College Dublin, Submitted by a team comprising of Affraic Brophy, Bethany McKittrick, Caoimhe Rogers, Christopher McFadden and Daniel Diez Clarke, with Prof. Tríona Lally as supervisor.
  • People’s Choice Award: TremTrack, Trinity College Dublin, Submitted by a team comprising of Affraic Brophy, Bethany McKittrick, Caoimhe Rogers, Christopher McFadden and Daniel Diez Clarke, with Prof. Tríona Lally as supervisor.

We would like to express our appreciation to all the students who entered, and to their wonderful supervisors for their ongoing support of the UDGC. We would also like to sincerely thank our judges (both national and international) without whose time, effort and input we could not run the event.