Five Teams Vying for $50,000 at UMass Amherst Innovation Challenge

AMHERST, Mass. - Five teams of student entrepreneurs will pitch business plans based on their innovations to a panel of expert judges in hopes of winning some of the $50,000 in prize money available at the seventh annual University of Massachusetts Amherst Innovation Challenge. The competition will be held Tuesday, April 17 beginning at 3:30 p.m. in the Amherst Room on the 10th floor of the Campus Center. It is free and open to the public.

The student innovators and entrepreneurs will make investor presentations from 3:30 to about 5:30 p.m., and a panel of judges will then decide which team has the best entrepreneurial plan for taking a new idea to market. The winning team or teams will be announced at about 6:45 p.m.

The Innovation Challenge is a business plan competition that emphasizes innovation and encourages individuals from every discipline and department on campus to work together to use technology to solve society’s overarching problems in new ways. Since 2005, the UMass Amherst Innovation Challenge has provided more than $428,000 in awards, supplied by private donors, to 53 different student-led teams.

The final five competing teams are:

FACTbase, which is developing technology that will improve microfossil identification to save the oil industry time and money;

Plate Technologies, which delivers precision instrumentation for rapid success of biological-cell-culture-based experiments with EZ Plate;

SMASH, which offers two new technologies to reduce the energy consumption of battery-powered devices;

Sneakers for Success, which uses sneaker culture, urban lifestyle, and design to motivate underrepresented youth toward academic success;

Sweet Seat, which is a premium bicycle seat that delivers comfort through design.

"We have been pleased to see that previous winners of the Innovation Challenge have gone on to do exceptionally well in other competitions and, more importantly, to continue the development of their ventures," says Michael F. Malone, the Ronnie and Eugene Isenberg Distinguished Professor of Engineering and vice chancellor for research and engagement at UMass Amherst. "This spring we are pleased that one winning team will be fast-tracked into round two of the MassChallenge, the world’s largest startup accelerator and competition."

In addition to the competition this year, intellectual property law firm Wolf, Greenfield & Sacks, P.C. will present the newly established David Wolf Prize of $5,000, which will be given to the team of innovators that the firm believes demonstrates the greatest potential in this year’s Innovation Challenge. The prize honors UMass Amherst alumnus David Wolf, who is entering his sixth decade as an intellectual property lawyer with the firm his father, Ezekiel Wolf, founded in 1927. Wolf Greenfield was a founding sponsor of the competition and continues as a platinum-level sponsor.

"We are thrilled to be able to honor David Wolf’s many contributions to IP law by establishing a prize that also pays tribute to the countless years David has devoted to counseling and encouraging new entrepreneurs," says Timothy J. Oyer, president and managing partner of Wolf Greenfield.

The Innovation Challenge is supported entirely with private funds donated by Eugene M. and Ronnie Isenberg and the following sponsors: Wolf Greenfield; Saint-Gobain; Joseph Bohan; Cantor Colburn LLP; CISCO; Raytheon; Vistagy; Wayne Boulais ’85 ’88; Stephen Dunne ’89; Provenance Venture Partners; Michael Tunstall ’82, and Karen Lauter Utgoff Consulting.