Five Teams to Compete in Innovation Challenge Finals at UMass Amherst April 17

AMHERST, Mass. – Five teams of student entrepreneurs will pitch their business plans to a panel of expert judges at the eighth annual University of Massachusetts Amherst Innovation Challenge on April 17. The teams will be competing for $50,000 in prize money at the event held in the Amherst Room, 10th floor, Campus Center, starting at 3:30 p.m. The competition is free and open to the public.
Ideas that will be featured include solar space-heating window units, a mobile application that shows discount coupons for retail stores, advanced videoconferencing software, new medical technology software and crowd source investment for solar projects.
The student teams will make investor presentations from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. Judges will then decided the winning team or teams by 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 the UMass Amherst campus to work together on new technology for solving society’s overarching problems. Since 2005, the UMass Amherst Innovation Challenge has provided more than $495,000 in awards supplied by private donors to 65 different student-led teams. The $50,000 awarded on April 17 will put the Innovation Challenge over the half-million-dollar mark in total awards.
The final five teams in the Innovation Challenge are:
  • Inside Out Solar has planned, built and is testing affordable solar space-heating units that fit into a window like a portable air conditioner does. These solar heating units work effectively in a wide range of situations and provide solutions ranging from a cabin in the woods with little access to heat to a large apartment building full of windows.

  • Fetch Rewards is a mobile application that simplifies and streamlines the shopping experience before, during and after shopping. FetchRewards turns the mobile phone’s camera into a bar code scanner that automatically brings up coupons for items and speeds checkout.

  • NineBrain is a medtech collaboration platform and marketplace for advancing technology development by uniquely connecting the vital communities essential for global medical innovation. NineBrain is a semantic Web 3.0 solution with proprietary algorithms that provide valuable foresight of unmet clinical needs, capabilities of current technology, and new technologies available for commercialization.

  • VideoConversation’s patented technology enables videoconferencing that automatically shows real interpersonal and non-verbal communication in a smooth and natural way. The system identifies and zooms to show all speakers and displays them with the best possible camera angle.

  • Crowd Solar saves community institutions money on electricity and allows investors to receive competitive rates of return while facilitating the adoption of clean, renewable energy throughout the community. This is done by providing an online platform for people and businesses to invest in local solar projects on community buildings.

“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 Mike Malone, the Ronnie and Eugene Isenberg Distinguished Professor of Engineering and vice chancellor for research and engagement at UMass Amherst.
In addition to the other prize money being issued, intellectual property law firm Wolf, Greenfield & Sacks, P.C., will present the David Wolf Prize of $5,000 to the team of innovators that the firm believes demonstrates the greatest potential in this year’s UMass Innovation Challenge. The prize honors the late David Wolf, who was a UMass Amherst alumnus and 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.
The UMass Innovation Challenge campus partners are the College of Engineering, the College of Natural Sciences, the Isenberg School of Management and the UMass Innovation Institute. The contest’s financial support comes from Eugene M. and Ronnie Isenberg; Wolf Greenfield; Saint-Gobain; Cantor Colburn LLP; CISCO; Steven Luby ‘84, ‘86MS; Raytheon; Saul Ewing; William Firestone ‘78; an anonymous faculty donor; Stephen Dunne ‘89; Provenance Venture Partners; Michael Tunstall ‘82, and Karen Lauter Utgoff Consulting.