PARIS, July 3 /PRNewswire/ --

- Largest technology competition in the world kicks off its finals today in Paris.

Competition begins today for 370 students from 61 countries and regions competing for US$240,000 in prize money at the Imagine Cup 2008, an annual competition that gives students round the world the chance to unlock their creative genius and create technology solutions that can help address some of the world's toughest social challenges.


The focus for Imagine Cup 2008 is on building technology solutions that help address challenging environmental sustainability issues. From a pool of over 200,000 participants, 124 teams have been selected to represent their countries in Paris for a week of competition about their innovative technology solutions. These student-developed solutions range from improving access to clean water, reducing pollution and carbon emissions to achieving sustainable cities and reducing demand on energy.

"Imagine Cup inspires these students to address the world's challenges in new ways and deliver innovative technology solutions that can truly change the world for the better," said Jean-Philippe Courtois, president of Microsoft International. "We hope that some of these students will become the entrepreneurs of the future, innovating and creating jobs like some of the previous winners. We wish all the finalists the best of luck in what will be an intense week of competition."

Students and teams compete in the worldwide Imagine Cup finals across nine categories: Software Design, Embedded Development, Game Development, "Project Hoshimi" (Programming Battle), IT Challenge, Algorithm, Photography, Short Film and Interface Design. Individual students and teams are in the final stages of a yearlong competition and will undertake a series of onsite challenges relating to technology and digital media depending on the category. The winners will be announced on Tuesday, July 8, as part of the Imagine Cup World Festival closing ceremonies.

"For me, the Imagine Cup was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to explore the power of software, make new friends from round the globe who share my passion for innovation and technology, and leverage the event as a starting point for my career," said Vincent Bellet, a finalist from Imagine Cup 2006. "After the Imagine Cup final, I received more than 50 job offers from different companies. To win the French finals and to be a worldwide finalist for a competition sponsored by Microsoft has been a great plus on my resume."

In coordination with Imagine Cup, Microsoft, together with INSEAD, the Women in IT forum and the European Schoolnet, will be hosting a high-level round table to raise awareness of and direct policy attention to the need for promoting greater participation of young women in technology and science studies.

The Imagine Cup, now in its sixth year, challenges students to imagine a better world enabled by their own talent and also to contribute directly to the future of technology, software and computing. Teams develop innovative technological and digital media projects that offer real-world solutions to real-world problems.

Sponsors for the Imagine Cup 2008 finals include Air France, Avanade, BT, Dassault Systemes, HP, Novotel, Paramount Pictures Corp and Quiksilver Inc.

About Microsoft

Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) is the worldwide leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses realise their full potential.

About Microsoft EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa)

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