Frequently Asked Questions

Want to compete in the Innovation Challenge? Not sure about some of the details? Here's a list of questions we frequently get from prospective competitors. Click or tap a question to reveal the answer or use the expand all link on the right to read through them all at once.

Beyond signing a team's application to compete, faculty advisers are committing to encourage and support the team's effort on their Innovation Challenge concept.  Some faculty members choose to work intensively with the student team while others act as a sounding board.  Faculty advisers are typically not expected to provide business advice or to directly supervise a team's work on the concept.  Instead, the Innovation Challenge program provides teams with access to many resources both on and off campus.

Yes, as long as you have not won the top prize in the final business plan competition with this idea before.

No, past winning plans are confidential documents. If you want to see examples of other business plans, there are tons out there on the web – just Google.

Yes and no. You are not obligated; though we'd love to see you launch the business. Cash prizes are yours to do what you want, however you will be required to reach certain milestones in order to receive payments from the final business plan competition.

The UMass Innovation Challenge matches teams with judges and sponsors who mentor, provide insight, offer lessons from experience, and serve as sounding boards.  Our mentors bring deep expertise in a wide variety of areas such as industry specific knowledge, intellectual property, business development, entrepreneurial finance and entrepreneurial marketing.   They bring with them an extensive network and can help you connect to senior decision makers and potential customers as your progress warrants.  On-going interaction between students and mentors is strongly encouraged well beyond the UMass IC competition. 

NO. Participation in the spring is independent of participation in the fall. In other words, you do not need to have competed in the Fall MinutePitch or Executive Summary & Elevator Pitch events in order to participate in the Spring Mini Plan round.

Yes, though we encourage multi-disciplinary teams (and some judges value that).

Prizes are at the discretion of the judges. In previous years, $70,000 has been awarded annually in team prizes over the Fall and Spring events.

Throughout the academic year, there will be a series of workshops as well as coaching sessions for teams who have submitted Intent to Compete forms.

Yes. Additional members may be added to your team up until the deadline for submitting written plans for each of the competitions.

You may be subject to the University's patent and copyright obligations. Therefore, please consult with the Commercial Ventures and Intellectual Property (CVIP) office on your campus, or your faculty advisor. Please note that similar restrictions apply to private industry and government sponsored research as well.

The organizers are committed to preserving the confidentiality of submissions. Industry standard for venture capitalists is to not sign Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDA). Therefore, our judges will follow this standard operating procedure to help replicate the experience of funding a new venture. Please note that our judges are well-respected, highly accomplished business people who will treat each entry with the highest standard of professionalism. If you are concerned about confidentiality please exclude specific details from your submissions. Also, please contact a patent attorney or the University of Massachusetts office of Commercial Ventures and Intellectual Property (CVIP) on your campus. CVIP can assist and advise you through this process and will prepare the appropriate CDA whenever necessary. Teams that are selected for the MinutePitch; Executive Summary & Elevator Pitch; and Final Business Plan competitions will present their concept/idea to the public.

Owners of the concept/technology cannot be under a contractual agreement, university or company disclosure policy, or other restrictions that prohibit competing in business plan competitions, using the technology for personal use without informing others, or disclosing the concept/technology.

  • You will learn to work with an interdisciplinary team and transform an idea into a viable business.
  • You will have the opportunity to take part in the process of conceiving and developing an idea in commercial terms.
  • You will have the opportunity to win prize money that can be used to advance your business.
  • You will gain experience that is attractive to many potential employers.

No. If you submitted Intent to Compete form in the fall semester, you will not need to resubmit in the spring semester. If you missed the fall semester deadline and still want to compete in the Mini Plan Competition, you will need to submit by the deadline in spring semester. Only teams selected to move forward out of the spring Mini Plan Competition will be able to compete in the Final Business Plan Competition in April.

Audience Choice voting is completed via text messaging using

You are strongly encouraged to record a 1-3 minute video that showcases you pitching your idea. You may use a camera phone, video camera, computer camera, etc. and will not be in any way judged on the quality of the video. Links to video clips should be e-mailed to Meagan Riley at YouTube and Dropbox are recommended.

In your video pitch you should quickly answer the following five questions:

  1. What's the PROBLEM your product or service addresses?
  2. What's your SOLUTION?
  3. Who are your customers – how large is the MARKET?
  4. Who is the COMPETITION?
  5. What advantages make you so SPECIAL?