An entrepreneurial dose of design will soon grace the Harvard Innovation Lab. The i-lab announced Friday the launch of the Deans’ Design Challenge, a contest aimed at addressing the challenges facing the world’s swiftly growing population.

Design will join the ranks of Harvard’s pre-existing Deans’ Challenges. One focuses on cultural entrepreneurship, while the other is centered around health and life sciences. Sponsored by 13 deans from schools across Harvard and hosted by the i-lab, the contests’ goals have been for students to create cross-disciplinary teams they can tackle social and health issues head-on with.

Between the two competitions, students were awarded a total of $150,000 last semester.

The theme of the inaugural Deans’ Design Challenge is “Urban Life 2030.” Participants will be tasked with developing tools that will improve the livability of our cities. The world’s urban population is estimated to grow by roughly 50 percent in the next 15 years, according to the i-lab, and largely in less developed regions where an influx of individuals could compound the effects of existing transportation, safety, food, water and inequality issues.

To help combat that, the i-lab has identified four areas of focus for the Deans’ Design Challenge debut, which they describe as:

Responsive Cities

City dwellers interact with their cities in more responsive and efficient ways than ever before by utilizing personal technology, automated transportation, smart grids and adaptive materials. New technologies have also created new possibilities for community, culture, democracy and the shared experience of the city. Can a responsive city be a city that is safer, cleaner, healthier, more just, more satisfying and elevating?

We seek proposals to make cities operate better, while enriching individual lives with the support of existing digital infrastructures.

Urban Metabolisms

Every city is made up of complex networks of energy, water and material flows. The current imbalance of resource input versus output puts great strains on the surrounding regions. Food, water, energy and raw materials all create extended, even global geographies for cities. How can we organize these networks more effectively using long-term sustainable systems?

We seek proposals that simulate and adapt material and energy efficiency, transform waste into resources, and organize networks into sustainable systems.

The Future of Consumption

Urban economies rely on the production and consumption of goods. Could marrying the commercial function of the city — material waste, planned obsolescence and the consumerization of ever-increasing domains of culture — with a new economic or cultural model designed for the next generation change the dynamics of consumption?

From new manufacturing methods to on-demand customization, we seek proposals for technologies that will change consumers, what is consumed, and act as a catalyst for consumption that is more culturally rich.

Aging in Place

Societies around the world are faced with the challenge of accommodating the needs of an increasingly older population. The United Nations predicts that the over-60 population will be as high as 30 percent in developed regions by 2030. This change in the population balance will be global and permanent, impacting all regions and cultures; integrating the demands of seniors, and helping them to stay connected, productive and happy will be a key challenge of the near and medium future. Similarly, helping the city’s younger population to re-adapt to this new population mix will be just as important.

We seek forward-thinking proposals reflecting solutions of all kinds–policies, technologies and spaces – that reimagine the physical and social landscape connecting the young and elderly.

Although official details about the contest have yet to be released, the i-lab is hosting a Deans’ Design Challenge Kickoff on Tuesday, December 3. Tickets are free, and interested individuals can register here.

Image via the i-lab