New innovation prize emphasizes training over competition

September 10, 2013
Contact: Nicole Casal Moore

ANN ARBOR—A new statewide entrepreneurial contest aims to arm students with the resources and skills necessary to launch a successful tech startup in the state of Michigan. In addition to more than $100,000 in award money, the Michigan Collegiate Innovation Prize will offer participants intensive startup training based on the National Science Foundation’s Innovation Corps program.

Launched in 2011, I-Corps is a seven-week startup acceleration program designed to help researchers identify and evaluate potential applications and business opportunities for their technologies. The MCIP will be the first time this curriculum is available to undergraduate students, and it will be taught by a team of experienced entrepreneurial educators, serial entrepreneurs and investors from across the state.

“Most business plan competitions are a beauty contest. I-Corps pulls the business issues forward and ensures there’s a viable business model before moving forward. Even though prizes are awarded at the end, the MCIP is primarily a training program, not a competition,” said Jonathan Fay, I-Corps program director and associate director at the University of Michigan Center for Entrepreneurship, which will administer the MCIP.

To be eligible to apply to the MCIP, teams must have an idea for a tech-based startup, have access to that technology and have at least one core member who is an undergraduate or graduate student enrolled in a Michigan college or university.

Applicants will be evaluated based on the viability and impact of their technology, how their business differentiates itself in the marketplace, and the skill and experience level of the team members. Twenty-five teams will be selected to participate.

Event coordinators say the statewide venture challenge will help both the state and its students by keeping Michigan relevant in the knowledge economy and creating different career paths for college graduates.

“It’s a way to keep Michigan talent in the state,” said Amy Klinke contest director and CFE assistant director. “When you start a company you don’t do it in a vacuum. We’re connecting students to local mentors and venture capitalists and engaging them in the Michigan entrepreneurial ecosystem. Some may leave but the hope is many will stay due to the roots they’re growing through this program.”

The challenge kicks off in late October with a two-day workshop and culminates in February with a final showcase and awards ceremony. During the intervening four months, participants will attend biweekly online progress meetings and receive pitch training, mentorship and up to $2,000 in prototype funding. Teams will be encouraged to brainstorm and innovate on their business model and position in the market.

“We want to empower students to think critically but creatively and to continue to make progress when the program ends. The goal is to make them self-sufficient and more successful,” Fay said.

The application deadline is Sept 29, 2013.


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