Ante Upped to $85k in Technology Competition for UMass Amherst Students and Alums

AMHERST, Mass. – A competition aimed at encouraging the development of business plans for hot new technologies conceived at the University of Massachusetts Amherst is about to go to a whole new level. This year the stakes for the popular competition are up from $50,000 to at least $85,000, with a goal of more than $100,000. The deadline for entering the fall phase is Nov. 26.

Over the last two years of extreme competition the Technology Innovation Challenge (TIC) has inspired business plans to develop products such as an early failure warning system that may have prevented the Katrina levee disaster in New Orleans and a drug delivery platform to make chemotherapy more effective. The competition is supported by the College of Engineering, Isenberg School of Management and College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, and is open to undergraduates, graduate students and recent alumni.

The boost in this year’s stakes reflects how much cash in private donations has come in for the competition. The additional $35,000 is geared to be an added incentive for teams to enter the TIC. The two platinum sponsors of the challenge are the law firm of Wolf, Greenfield & Sacks and Saint-Gobain High-Performance Materials.

The TIC was the brainchild of Michael F. Malone, Ronnie and Eugene Isenberg Distinguished Professor of Engineering and dean of the College of Engineering, and Soren Bisgaard, the Eugene M. Isenberg Professor of Technology Management in the Isenberg School of Management. Malone and Bisgaard established the TIC as a competition that promotes innovation education. The competitors are interdisciplinary student-alumni teams working in consultation with faculty members and external advisors with pertinent expertise. Each team conceives a product with regard to its scientific and technological design and then creates a business plan for its commercialization. The competition is open to teams that include at least one full-time undergraduate, graduate student or recent graduate. Twenty-eight teams entered the TIC last year.

The TIC is held in two phases. An Executive Summary Competition, or first phase, for the fall 2007 semester will be judged on Dec. 6 at 3:30 p.m. in 163C Campus Center. That’s when four prizes will be awarded: $5,000 for the winning team; two honorable mention awards of $1,000 each and a $2,500 people’s choice award.

A good example of an enterprise developed for the fall TIC was Pharma Solutus, created by a collaborative three-person team from the College of Engineering and the Isenberg School of Management interested in developing a novel polymeric nanotechnology that can deliver cancer-destroying agents more accurately within the body and make chemotherapy more efficient.

The spring phase of the TIC is planned for May 8, when more than $60,000 in prize money will be awarded. Teams need not be a part of the Executive Summary in order to participate in the spring event.

Last spring’s TIC was won by Condition Engineering, a team planning to provide condition monitoring and early failure warning systems for earthen structures. Current monitoring techniques are limited to visual inspections or specialized sensors and equipment that are expensive and provide limited information. The best example of a tragic situation in which these methods proved insufficient was the levee failures in New Orleans that resulted in untold damages and thousands of displaced residents. Condition Engineering would deliver a novel set of sensor units embedded in the ground, with tens of thousands of these sensors affording a widespread monitoring and early failure warning system.

In addition to Wolf, Greenfield & Sacks and Saint-Gobain High-Performance Materials, current sponsors are Artiman Ventures, Joseph Bohan, Forge Partners, LCC, Eric and Candy Janszen, Scott Perry, Karen Lauter Utgoff Consulting, Michael Turnstall ’82, Revolabs, Tom Gray ’87, Tripp Peake, Bart Stuck, and Mary-Jane Cross ’66.