Innovation Cup 2021

January 31, 2021

Opportunity begins:

Jun 26, 2021

Opportunity ends:

Jul 02, 2021

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Location (s):

  • Germany


The Innovation Cup in its eleventh year, brings together a promising new generation of academic talents from life sciences, material sciences, data sciences and business administration with the company’s senior management, researchers and accomplished retirees. This meeting of the minds is a creative and innovative platform aimed at advancing science and technology.

The brightest students from all over the world meet at our company headquarters to learn from professionals, network, develop business plans and win the 20,000 EUR Innovation Cup.



As a participant in our Innovation Cup, you get a chance to network with top students from around the world, work in teams to develop new innovative ideas for unmet medical need, and build a business case with support from experienced professionals. We are offering shared prizes of €20,000 for the winning team and €5,000 for the runner-up. Selected top performing participants could get an offer for a permanent employment at Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany. And to make things even more interesting, options to implement the best business plans will be evaluated.

The Innovation Cup summer camp takes place on 26th June - 2nd July 2021, near Frankfurt, Germany provided the pandemic situation allows it. Your travel, accommodation and food expenses are paid for by Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany.


During a one week Summer Camp, 30 selected postgraduate students will attend in-depth presentations about the pharmaceutical and chemical industry given by our management, scientists and external experts. Participants will work in small teams to generate an innovative idea that addresses a scientific challenge and develop the idea into a business plan. Teams will receive coaching and guidance from experienced veterans of our company, the Summer Camp moderator and our Innovation Management. You will learn the essentials about R&D within the pharmaceutical and chemical industry and understand how products are successfully discovered, developed and brought to market. You will learn to evaluate your ideas from a technical and business perspective and build a convincing business plan.

The teams will present their business plans to a grand jury. The jury will be composed of our top management plus external consultants. The jury will select the best business plan and present the winning team with the Innovation Cup award and cash prize of EUR 20,000 plus EUR 5,000 for the runner-up. At the first day of the Innovation Cup a conference with alumni from previous events will be organized with ample networking opportunities. Options to implement the best business plans will be evaluated. Top performing participants might be offered a position. 


  • ONCOLOGY: The team oncology will work on new innovative approaches for the targeted treatment of cancer with small molecules or proteins.
  • IMMUNO-ONCOLOGY: The team team immuno-oncology will work on new innovative approaches for the treatment of cancer via stimulating the immune system and overcoming the immunosuppressive environment of tumors.
  • AUTOIMMUNITY: The team autoimmunity will work on new innovative approaches for the treatment of autoimmune diseases such as e.g. Lupus.
  • DRUG DISCOVERY TECHNOLOGIES: The team drug discovery technologies will work on new innovative approaches to discover and optimize new small molecular drugs or new innovative approaches to design, screen or optimize new protein drugs.
  • DIGITALIZATION: The team digitalization will work on new innovative approaches to leverage the power of in-silico for drug discovery and development.
  • PANDEMIC THREAT: The team pandemic threat will focus on innovative approaches to fight emerging pandemics.

Opportunity is About:


Candidates should be from:

Description of Ideal Candidate:

Who can apply:

We invite advanced students in life sciences, chemistry, physics, computer sciences and business administration from all over the world to apply for participation in the Innovation Cup. 30 students will be selected:

  • Sciences: Postgraduate students in the life, material and data sciences, on their way towards a PhD in biology, chemistry, medicine, physics, biotech, bioinformatics, biochemistry, pharmacy, informatics, computer science, data science, engineering or related fields. Also Post Docs can apply!
  • Business: Advanced MBA students or recent MBA graduates with an interest in the pharmaceutical business and a life science background. 

The cup is not open to healthcare professionals.


Deadline: January 31, 2021

Program Starts: June 26, 2021

Program Ends: July 02, 2021

Cost/funding for participants:


Participating in the Innovation Cup is a unique professional development opportunity for students from life science, computer science and business administration with an interest in the pharmaceutical industry. The event brings together a promising new generation of talent with active researchers, members of senior management and accomplished retirees from our biopharmaceuticals division. 


Enjoy the innovation experience of a lifetime! The winning team is awarded the Innovation Cup and a shared prize of €20,000! The runner-up receives a shared prize of €5,000. In the following, options to implement the best business plans will be evaluated. The Cup is also a great opportunity to network and boost your professional development. On the last day of the summer camp, a conference with alumni of previous Innovation Cup editions will be organized. Learn what alumni are doing today and expand your network of top innovators.

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