The 2015-2016 academic year was the first year that the Berthiaume Center for Entrepreneurship was proud to claim stewardship of this highly successful program. Innovation Challenge has awarded up to $80K in prizes each academic year though competitive events that are designed to help and reward UMass students and young alumni who want to pursue a novel business idea and develop it into a marketable product.
The goal is for interdisciplinary teams to conceptualize a product with regard to its scientific and technological design, identify customers, and create a business plan for the product’s commercialization. Competition judges are entrepreneurs, legal experts, and consultants who also volunteer their time to mentor with students who are interested in marketing their new ideas.
Students from every discipline and stage of career — undergraduates, graduates and post-docs alike — are encouraged to compete!
The Innovation Challenge includes two public competitions, two closed-door sessions, and one workshop each year. In addition, the IC offers occasional events, workshops, and outside speakers to encourage and inform all students and faculty interested in innovation and entrepreneurship.
The MinutePitch Competition in October offers participants an easy way to get started and test business ideas without having to develop written business models or plans. The deadline for this year's application is October 17 by 11:59 pm.
The Seed Pitch Competition in November challenges and rewards participants for taking the first steps toward building their business model and forming their elevator pitch. In this round, teams must convince the judges why they need money to move forward with their venture. Teams will also get valuable feedback from the judges. The money awarded to each team will vary and reflect progress of venture. The deadline for this year's application is November 14 by 11:59 pm.
The Innovation Challenge Semi-Final Round in March is a closed-door competition that emulates an investor boardroom experience. Selected teams present their business concepts to a panel of judges and compete for a slot in the final competition. The deadline for this year's application is February 3 by 11:59 pm.
The Final Shark Tank Competition takes place in April. The best of the best compete for up to $65K in prizes. Judges determine winning teams and award amounts.
History of the UMass Innovation Challenge
The Innovation Challenge is an interdisciplinary event that is overseen by faculty members who hold Isenberg Professorships at UMass Amherst. The competition is one among many initiatives in a campus-wide strategy to develop technological innovation and to bring that intellectual property to the private sector.
Established in 2005, the competition is the result of the early work by Michael F. Malone, who is currently the Vice Chancellor of Research and Engagement and the Ronnie and Eugene Isenberg Distinguished Professor of Engineering; and the late Soren Bisgaard, who held the Eugene M. Isenberg Professorship of Technology Management in the Isenberg School of Management from 2002-2009.