Students: Do you have a new idea for an app, tool or proof-of-concept software that could make an impact on fintech industries? CRAFT, supported by the National Science Foundation, is looking for proposals from students at Stevens Institute of Technology and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

CRAFT, founded by Stevens Institute of Technology and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is the first fintech-focused organization backed by the National Science Foundation. CRAFT is requesting proposals from students at Stevens and RPI for its Fintech Sandbox. Our mission is to assist industry in achieving a greater coherence in leading-edge fintech research. The CRAFT Sandbox is seeking student-initiated project ideas -- such as developing apps, tools, proof of concept software -- that could be useful to CRAFT industry members and leading eventually to commercialization of the ideas. Students -- either as individuals or teams -- are invited to apply for CRAFT support to work towards assessing the viability and improve the ideas for further advancement.

The fintech industry is expanding rapidly and is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 26.87% by 2026. Through these proposals, CRAFT looks to generate and support student enthusiasm at Stevens and RPI for a deeper exploration of novel fintech ideas and the related learning process, and in the process train the future workforce for the fintech industry, starting from the high-school stage.

CRAFT’s research agenda broadly spans AI and machine learning, blockchains, network analytics, natural language processing (NLP), digitization and tokenization of assets, digital identity and security, as all of the above pertain to the modernization and transformation of the financial sector. CRAFT Sandbox ideas related to all the above are welcome. Suggested themes for Sandbox project ideas, which should not be considered exhaustive by any measure, are as follows:

  • Innovations in DApps: what new business paradigms, models and ideas can be explored through Decentralized Applications?
  • Robo-advisory for ESG: can algorithms result in a truly low-risk/high-return portfolio?
  • Leveraging AI to provide improvements in asset management: What new data types and AI capabilities can be developed to generate trusted and explainable investment advisory?
  • Risk management in the era of disruptive technologies: many organizations are investing in Blockchain technologies, but with very few knowledgeable employees regarding implementing and mitigating the risks associated with these technologies. Can this gap for risk management be filled and remedied in an effective way?

Students interested in participating in the CRAFT Sandbox initiative should conceive of problems that would impede the growth of the financial sector due to technological challenges and propose testable solutions to overcome the hurdles. These could be solutions from the perspectives of various CRAFT stakeholders including regulators, industry partners and the consumers. The selected students will benefit from support and mentorship from CRAFT industry members and faculty members.

Eligibility Requirements

  • Applicants must be students at Stevens or RPI at the time of proposal submission.
  • Students can submit a proposal individually or as part of a team. 
  • High school students can be included in teams.
  • The proposal idea must be evidently related to Financial Technologies that utilizes current technological advances to solve a problem in the financial sector.
  • If selected, all team members must be willing to work on the project idea full-time for at least 3 months each, which would be the summer months in case of high school students team members.
  • RPI and Stevens students should commit to work on the project idea for at least a full year (part-time if needed), in order to give the project the best chance of success.

Key dates

March 15, 2022 - Last day to submit proposals. Email in a single file to Professor Aparna Gupta [email protected]
March 20, 2022 - Shortlisted proposals are announced
March 25, 2022 - Interviews of the shortlisted projects by the panel of judges
April 15, 2022 - Winning projects are announced and resources matching process is initiated
May 15, 2022 - CRAFT Sandbox projects kick-off

Proposal preparation guidelines

A proposal must contain the following sections to be eligible for consideration. Please use the same titles and associated numbers in the proposal.

  1. Project title [10 words]
  2. Your qualifications. If part of a team, describe everyone's qualifications and planned roles in the project [200 words]
  3. Executive summary - High-level overview of the problem you propose to solve and value it may generate for the target beneficiaries. [200 words]
  4. Detailed description of the idea, the problem and solution approach. What is the proposal about and what is the fintech problem being addressed? How new is the solution approach, unexplored, totally new, or a tweak of an existing project in a way that hasn’t been considered before? How long has this fintech problem existed? Did the industry focus change over time regarding this fintech problem and why is your proposal beneficial for the current/future market?
  5. Competitive comparison. If this isn’t a completely novel solution being developed, provide a comparison against existing solutions. How is your idea better? How do you or your team differentiate yourselves from the competitors?
  6. Goals, risks, and outcomes of proposed project. What is your assessment of the feasibility of the project? What are anticipated risks and impediments for the success of the project? How long will it take to have measurable progress on your ideas?
  7. Timeline for tasks, goals and outcomes for the proposed project.
  8. Support - What are your needs for resources and support for the proposed project ideas?
  9. Bibliography - Sources for all data needed for the project as well as references cited.
  10. Two-page resume and a letter of reference for each team member from an academic or professional supervisor attesting to the student’s ability to perform well in the proposed project.
  11. Email proposals in a single file by March 15, 2022 to Professor Aparna Gupta [email protected]

Formatting

The proposal should be written in an A4 size paper, single spaced, 11pt font size, with 1” margin on all sides. The first three items above should be included in the first page forming the cover page of the proposal. The total length of the proposal should not exceed 3 pages including the cover page, but not including the bibliography.

Selection criteria and next steps

A panel of CRAFT industry members and RPI and Stevens faculty members will evaluate the submitted proposals and rate the projects based on:

  1. Quality of proposal write up, both in the content and clarity of presentation of the ideas.
  2. Alignment and justification of the proposed ideas with CRAFT mission and fintech needs.
  3. Strength, preparation, and willingness of the project team to serve the objectives of the proposed project.

A shortlisted set of most compelling projects from the above deliberation will be invited to make an oral presentation/pitch to the panel of judges. The panel will judge the pitches by the following criteria: (1) Pitching style and ability to present ideas with clarity; (2) Any prototype or live-demo (if applicable); (3) Ability to answer questions from the judges about the proposed ideas and defend the viability of the project; (4) Short-term and long-term uses stated, justified, and a financial outlook for the project estimated.

The final selected projects will be assigned a faculty and an industry mentor, and the available financial resources will be assigned to the projects. The selected projects will be required to provide a quarterly progress report to CRAFT detailing the project’s progress on the timeline, milestones and outcomes of the project. Projects demonstrating adequate efforts of the team members and progress will continue to receive the support from CRAFT for the remaining duration of the projects. Successful projects will be invited to apply for extensions of the project beyond the original duration of the project.

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