Student Teams at UMass Amherst Gear Up for Innovation Challenge Contest on December 8

AMHERST, Mass. – The excitement of student teams competing for more than $10,000 in prizes and support for their business ideas will again liven up the University of Massachusetts Amherst Campus Center as the opening event of the annual Innovation Challenge is held on Tuesday, Dec. 8. The executive summary and elevator pitch competition, which is free and open to the public, will be held at 3:30 p.m. in Room 1009.

Six teams are expected to vie this year in a contest designed to inspire and reward the best entrepreneurial business plans from UMass Amherst students, recent alumni, and their faculty advisors, says engineering professor Mike Malone, who is also vice chancellor for research and engagement. “In stressing innovation, we are encouraging people from every discipline and department on campus to get involved and use technology for solving society’s overarching problems in new ways,” he notes.

Innovation Challenge competitors are interdisciplinary student-alumni teams working with faculty and external advisors with pertinent expertise. The idea is for each team to design a new product and take it from the scientific concept and technological design stage through a business plan and into commercialization. The months-long competition is open to teams that include at least one full-time UMass Amherst undergraduate, graduate student or recent graduate.

During the actual competition, each team leader presents a two-minute “elevator pitch” and answers any questions from judges and the audience. In addition, each team has prepared a two- or three-page executive summary of the business plan and concept, which helps the judges determine an overall score.

Teams compete for awards donated entirely by the private sector. Judges for the executive summary competition are entrepreneurs, legal experts and consultants who have volunteered their time in the weeks leading up to the competition to give teams constructive advice on their concepts and business plans. A second phase of the Innovation Challenge, featuring full business plans and investor presentations, is planned for April 22, 2010.

The UMass Amherst Innovation Challenge is supported entirely with private donations from Eugene M. and Ronnie Isenberg and the following sponsors: Wolf Greenfield; Saint-Gobain; Joseph Bohan; Paul Carney ’82; Forge Partners; Eric Janszen ’04; Scott Perry ’82; Raytheon; Bart Stuck & Mary-Jane Cross ’66; VISTAGY; Stephen Dunne ’89; Wayne Boulais ’85, ’88; Tom Gray ’87; Michael Tunstall ’82; Karen Lauter Utgoff Consulting.