Awards in iGEM 2021

On this page you will find information on the: Grand Prizes, the Track Awards, the Special Prizes, and Community-Awarded Prizes.

The following is a list of Awards given by the iGEM Judges and some general information about how Award decisions are made.

For examples of award-winning work, see the 2020 Giant Jamboree Results.

Grand Prizes

A small number of iGEM teams will be selected by the judges as iGEM Finalists. These teams will be selected based on the overall excellence of their entire iGEM project, including contributions from the quality of the Team Wiki, and Presentation.


1. Grand Prize Undergraduate
also known as the aluminum BioBrick Trophy; best overall undergraduate team project

2. First Runner-Up Undergraduate
the next highest ranking undergraduate team project

3. Second Runner-Up Undergraduate
the next highest ranking undergraduate team project


1. Grand Prize Overgraduate
also known as the aluminum BioBrick Trophy; best overall overgraduate team project

2. First Runner-Up Overgraduate
the next highest ranking overgraduate team project

High School

1. Grand Prize High School
also known as the BioBrick Trophy; best overall high school team project

Track Awards

The iGEM 2021 judging committee hopes to award the following track awards, conditional on the accomplishments presented by the teams. Each prize will be awarded at the discretion of the judges based on how impressed they are with the level of excellence demonstrated by teams. Below are brief descriptions for each track award.


There will be a track award distributed to teams in the undergraduate section and one to teams in the overgraduate section on the condition that there are more than 10 teams in each of the sections in the specified track. If there are fewer than 10 teams in either the undergraduate or overgraduate section of a track, the prizes will be combined into one track award.

1. Best Diagnostics Project

Many medical conditions can be successfully treated if only they are diagnosed at an early enough stage. Can your team come up with faster, cheaper and better diagnostics techniques to improve access to medical treatment worldwide?

2. Best Energy Project

World energy consumption has increased by roughly a factor of six since 1950. In May 2013, atmospheric C02 readings taken at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii surpassed 400 ppm for the first time, an unsustainably high concentration of CO2. Can we use synthetic biology to create energy technologies that produce less CO2, make energy using feedstock and waste materials or otherwise sustainably generate energy?

3. Best Environment Project

The quality of the air, water, and land, both on Earth and other heavenly bodies, limits the happiness of humans and other creatures. Can biotechnology be used to help clean the air, provide fresh drinking water, restore or enhance soil quality, terraform a near-Earth asteroid, or protect, preserve, or enhance natural biological diversity?

4. Best Food & Nutrition Project

People need to eat. Can biotechnology be responsibly used to produce food or nutritional molecules without causing widespread shortages of either, and without harming the environment that future generations will inherit?

5. Best Foundational Advance Project

Just thirty-five years ago, scientists could not cut and paste pre-existing fragments of genetic material like we can today. The discovery and application of DNA recombination allowed us to assemble new genes. The synthetic biology community needs other enabling technologies that help to make new accomplishments possible. What are other types of basic tricks does nature use? Have you discovered and applied one that could revolutionize synthetic biology?

6. Best Hardware Project

After many teams have worked in the area in the last few years, Hardware is now a part of iGEM. Are you developing hardware for synthetic biology? This broad definition of hardware could include projects working on low cost lab equipment, microfluidics, specialized equipment for measurement and many other areas.
Note: Hardware Track teams are not eligible for the Best Hardware special prize.

7. Best Information Processing Project

The diversity and abundance of biological properties, behaviors, and parts presents a huge information processing challenge. Has your project led to an innovative system that allows us to navigate and use lots of information quickly and effectively?

8. Best Manufacturing Project

Have you ever heard of nanotechnology? Well, biology is a nanotechnology that already exists, and that actually works. The ribosome is a programmable nanoassembler embedded within a reproducing machine. Could we responsibly use biology to manufacture useful products, from the nanoscale (atoms) to the decascale (buildings and bridges)? What can biology be programmed to manufacture?

9. Best New Application Project

We're guessing that you have great ideas that nobody has ever thought about, or if they have they forgot to tell somebody else. Can you imagine an entirely new application area for biological technology?

10. Best Open Project

Teams in the Open Track work on synthetic biology projects that may focus on measurement, policy, and art & design, as well as other areas. For example, are you exploring a project with a strong focus on Human Practices, policy, safety, or entrepreneurship? Are you doing something completely different that does not fit in any other track focus? Then this may be the right track for your team!

11. Best Software Project

Computers have been around for a long time. Why don't we have more, great software tools to help everyone engineer synthetic biological systems based on standard biological parts?
Note: Software Track teams are not eligible for the Best Software Tool special prize.

12. Best Therapeutics Project

Many health and medical problems can best be addressed with new and novel therapies. What can synthetic biology do to improve techniques, technology and access to new and novel therapies?

Special Prizes

Special prizes are awarded to honor the most innovative and unique contributions to iGEM. The iGEM 2021 Executive Judging Committee hopes to award the following Special prizes, conditional on the accomplishments presented by the teams. Each prize will be awarded at the discretion of the judges based on how impressed they are with the level of excellence demonstrated by teams.


There will be one special prize awarded to teams in the undergraduate section and one to teams in the overgraduate section, providing there are a sufficient number of teams in each section. For tracks or awards with only a few teams competing, we may pool both sections into a single award. There may also be special prizes awarded to high school teams, providing the work is of sufficiently high quality. *Please note judges may choose not to award both undergraduate and overgraduate awards in cases where they have not been sufficiently impressed.

Part Requirements

If you are working with DNA Parts this year, new Parts must be either BioBrick RFC10 or Type IIS compatible.* This means the sequences of your Parts cannot contain the restriction enzyme sequences used in the assembly method you have chosen to be compatible with.

You must clearly document all of your work for each Part on the Part's Main Page on the Registry (see the Registry Document Parts page for instructions). This documentation should include the engineered design of the part (with relevant background / source information), detailed experimental design, and experimental characterization data.

*If you cannot follow one of these assembly standards for your one or more of your Parts, please send a detailed email explaining your situation to hq [AT] igem [DOT] org.

1. Best Education

How have you developed new opportunities to include more people in shaping synthetic biology? Innovative educational tools and outreach activities have the ability to establish a two-way dialogue with new communities by discussing public values and the science behind synthetic biology. Document your approach and what was learned by everyone involved to compete for this award.

2. Best Hardware

This is a prize for the team that has developed a piece of hardware for synthetic biology. Hardware in iGEM should make synthetic biology based on standard parts easier, faster, better or more accessible to our community. Did your team make a sensor to help teams characterize parts? Did you make a robot that can help teams perform experiments or do cloning more easily? Tell us what your team did for this award!
Note: Hardware Track teams are not eligible for this special prize.

3. Inclusivity Award

The Inclusivity Award recognizes exceptional efforts to include people with diverse identities in scientific research. Who is allowed to have a voice in iGEM, synthetic biology, and science more broadly? How have you developed new opportunities to eliminate barriers and allow more people to contribute to, participate in, and/or be represented by these communities? To compete for this prize, activities do not have to be directly related to your team’s project. Document your approach, how you improved inclusivity, and what was learned.

4. Best Integrated Human Practices

How does your project affect society and how does society influence the direction of your project? How might ethical considerations and stakeholder input guide your project purpose and design and the experiments you conduct in the lab? How does this feedback enter into the process of your work all through the iGEM competition? Document a thoughtful and creative approach to exploring these questions and how your project evolved in the process to compete for this award.

5. Best Measurement

There are a lot of exciting Parts in the Registry, but many Parts have still not been characterized. Designing great measurement approaches for characterizing new parts or developing and implementing an efficient new method for characterizing thousands of parts are good examples.

6. Best Model

Models and computer simulations provide a great way to describe the functioning and operation of BioBrick Parts and Devices. Synthetic biology is an engineering discipline and part of engineering is simulation and modeling to determine system behavior before building your design. Designing and simulating can be iterated many times in a computer before moving to the lab. This award is for teams who build a model of their system and use it to inform system design or simulate expected behavior before or in conjunction with experiments in the wetlab.

7. Best New Basic Part

Most genetically-encoded functions have not yet been converted to BioBrick parts. Thus, there are many opportunities to find new, cool, and important genetically encoded functions, and refine and convert the DNA encoding these functions into BioBrick standard biological parts. To be eligible for this award, this part must be well documented on the Main Page on the Part's Page on the Registry.

8. Best New Composite Part

New BioBrick devices can be made by combining existing BioBrick Parts. For example, Inverters, Amplifiers, Smell Generators, Protein Balloon Generators, Senders, Receivers, Actuators, and so on. To be eligible for this award, this part must be well documented on the Main Page on the Part's Page on the Registry.

9. Best Part Collection

Did your team make a lot of great parts? Is there a theme that ties all your parts together? Did you make a CRISPR collection, a MoClo collection, or a collection of awesome pigment parts? Tell the judges you should be evaluated for the Best Part Collection award! To be eligible for this award, these parts must be well documented on the Main Page on the Part's Page on the Registry. See parts BBa_K747000 through BBa_K747095 for an example of a well-documented part collection.

10. Best Plant Synthetic Biology

This award is designed celebrate exemplary work done in plant synthetic biology. Did you build a project in a plant chassis? Did you submit plant parts to the Registry? This award could also be given to a team working with algae or another photosynthetic chassis. Show us what you made and remember to adhere to iGEM safety guidelines!

11. Best Poster

For 2021, posters are no longer a required deliverable and will not be judged. As such, the Best Poster prize will not be awarded.

12. Best Presentation

Presentations should be clear, visually appealing, engaging, and communicate your project to a broad audience. Teams will also be evaluated for their ability to answer questions about their work.

13. Safety and Security Award

Synthetic biology will need to be used safely and securely if local people are to solve local problems all around the world. In 2021, the Safety and Security Committee is challenging teams to apply biological engineering approaches to manage risks associated with synthetic biology. Can you take the next step in incremental progress towards knowledge, understanding and tools that will make the use of synthetic biology safer and more secure? Please note: this award will be evaluated by the Safety and Security Committee.

14. Best Software Tool

Regardless what's the topic, iGEM projects often create or adapt computational tools to move the bigger project forward. Because they are born out of a direct practical need, these software tools (or new computational methods) can even prove surprisingly useful for others. Without necessarily being big or complex, they can make the crucial difference to a project's success. This award tries to find and honor such "nuggets" of computational work. To be eligible, your software has to be documented and made available under an OSI approved open source license. Teams nominating themselves for this prize must submit their code to the iGEM Github (for details, visit this page).

Note: Software Track teams are not eligible for this special prize.

15. Best Supporting Entrepreneurship

The entrepreneurship prize recognizes exceptional effort to build a business case and commercialize an iGEM project. This award is open to all teams to show that entrepreneurship is something all teams can aspire to do with their project. This award can go to an new project, or to a previous project that a team aimed to commercialize. Have you filed a provisional patent on your project/device/process? Have you raised money to build and ship products? Have you pitched your idea to investors and received money? Complete the entrepreneurship section on the Judging form and tell us what you did. As always in iGEM, the aim is to impress the judges!

16. Best Sustainable Development Impact

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a call to action to integrally address global environmental, social, and economic challenges. As the future leaders of synthetic biology research and innovation, it’s your responsibility to participate in the global conversations to help develop solutions towards meeting the SDGs. We encourage you to demonstrate how you have evaluated your project ideas against one or more of the SDGs, how you’ve consulted with SDG stakeholders, and how you’ve begun to form collaborations with other iGEM teams around the SDGs. You’re encouraged to look back at previous iGEM projects to evaluate them against the SDGs and build upon them.

17. Best Wiki

The team Wiki is the “face” of your iGEM project. The team Wikis serve as the main project information resource for future iGEM students and teams, as well as the rest of the world. This award honors the wiki page that exemplifies what the following year’s Wikis should strive for.

Community-Awarded Prizes

The iGEM competition also has prizes that are awarded by the wider community at the Jamboree. These prizes celebrate teams and their work in ways that a traditional judging panel would not be able to do. Below are brief descriptions for these community-awarded prizes.

1. iGEMers' Prize

The iGEMers' prize is voted on by this year’s iGEM teams to celebrate their favorite teams. Each iGEM team receives a voting ballot to select a team (other than their own!) that they believe best represents the iGEM values. The choice is yours!

2. Best Project Promotion Video Prize

The Project Promotion Video summarizes a team’s project, introducing the problem the team is addressing, their solution, and its impact. The best project promotion prize rewards creative use of video, quality production, and clear communication of the team’s project. You are welcome to put on your thinking caps and share your journey with unbounded creativity to a broad audience!


If you have questions or suggestions, please email us at judging AT igem DOT org . We love hearing from teams. Best of luck with your projects!