The second annual Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition drew a crowd of hundreds this week to Eastern Michigan University’s Eagle Crest Resort to help develop the state’s economic future through entrepreneurship.
But then, when you’re handing out $1 million, a big crowd is sure to develop.
A total of 53 companies, 24 student business ideas, and 42 venture and angel investment groups participated in the event.
During the three days of the competition, company and student pitches were interspersed with networking sessions and panel discussions on manufacturing innovation, cleantech investment, the role of nonprofits in entrepreneurship, problems that kill deals and more.
The “adult” companies competed for prizes ranging from $10,000 through a Grand Company Award of $500,000. The student teams competed for prizes of $25,000, $15,000 and $10,000.
The final presentations Thursday night were held at Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn. Before the prizes were handed out, attendees heard presentations from Michael Finney, CEO of the Michigan Economic Development Corp.; Michigan Lt. Gov. Brian Calley; and Peter Perez, deputy assistant secretary for manufacturing at the United States Department of Commerce. Michael Jandernoa, former CEO of Allegan generic drug maker Perrigo, was also given the Spirit of Michigan award. All praised the attendees as representing the future of Michigan.
Winning the Grand Prize of $500,000 was Ypsilanti-based De Novo Sciences, a company developing an instrument system and reagent kit that allows for the separation, detection, and retrieval of circulating tumor cells (CTCs) from peripheral whole blood — an alternative to traditionally painful and invasive biopsies. The technology will also enable users to perform downstream molecular tests at the single cell level as well as retrieve viable cancer cells. More at www.denovosciences.com.
Winning a runner-up prize of $150,000 was Fusion Coolant Systems Inc., a company spun out of the University of Michigan that provides an advanced coolant and lubrication system for use in manufacturing. More at www.fusioncoolant.com.
Winning $25,000 sector awards were the following companies:
* Life Sciences, Ocusciences Inc., a medical diagnostic device company commercializing a rapid, non-invasive test for early detection of retinal disease. More at www.ocusciences.com.
* Medical Devices, Advanced Cooling Therapy LLC, a company developing improved methods to control patient temperature in order to more effectively implement mild therapeutic hypothermia and treat fever. More at www.advancedcoolingtherapy.com.
* Advanced Materials, InfiChem Polymers LLC, a company formed in 2009 to commercialize its proprietary chemical process for recycling of polyurethane scrap destined for landfills into InfiGreen polyol products that are used in the production of new polyurethanes.
* Advanced Manufacturing, ePack Inc., a company developing advanced packaging materials for electronic sensors intended for harsh environments. More at www.memsepack.com.
* Alternative Energy, Grid Logic, a company introducing a small, low-cost, high-field magnet for wind power applications, commercializing superconducting technology originating at Stanford University. More at www.grid-logic.com.
* Advanced Transportation, ENRG Power Systems LLC, a 2-year-old Michigan company established to manufacture and market an easy-to-install ignition coil system which improves spark ignition engine fuel economy.
* Defense and homeland security, H3D Inc., which is commercializing a new three-dimensional radiation imaging technology developed at the University of Michigan Department of Nuclear Engineering and Radiological Sciences. Unlike detection systems on the market today, H3D’s technology can be packaged in a handheld device and operate at room temperature while providing the ability to visualize, in real time, the precise location and isotopic composition of radioactive materials.
* IT, I3D Technologies Inc., a software company in Ann Arbor that provides clean water management tools. More at www.i3dtech.com.
* Products and services, Llamasoft, an Ann Arbor supply chain management software developer.
The $10,000 People’s Choice award went to Shoulder Innovations LLC, a design and development company focused on providing shoulder replacement implants with superior durability and which are easier for surgeons to implant. More at www.shoulderinnovations.com.
And a $25,000 Encore Award for the best startup proposed by someone over 50 years of age, sponsored by AARP, went to NextGen Metabolomics, developing new technology to automate the measurement of metabolites from samples such as cells, biopsies, urine or blood. More at www.nextgenmetabolomics.com.
The other adult finalists were:
* Accio Energy, an Ann Arbor company developing “turbine-less” wind energy through static electricity and a charged water mist. More at www.accioenergy.com.
* Phrixus Pharmaceuticals Inc., a pharmaceutical company developing a drug to treat cardiac dysfunction in Duchenne muscular dystrophy and acute heart failure. More ta www.phrixuspharmaceuticals.com.
* RetroSense Therapeutics, a company formed in 2009 to develop a novel gene therapy approach to vision restoration pioneered at Wayne State University. More at www.retro-sense.com.
The winner of the $25,000 student competition first prize was Are You a Human, a University of Michigan-bred idea to change the way that Web sites verify that their users are human — with a fun, silly game rather than filling in those wavy letters in a box. Domino’s Pizza, for instance, can have you build their latest pizza, or Fathead could have you put a virtual graphic on a virtual wall. The concept is already being used by eight clients. More than www.areyouahuman.com.
Winner of the $15,000 student second place prize was Fashion Forward Maternity, a University of Michigan concept which bills itself as the Netflix of maternity fashion. Backers said the concept features 80 percent gross margins and a market that will never go away — pregnant women. It’s an online, subscription based maternity and nursing clothing rental service. More at www.fashionforwardmaternity.com.
Winning the $10,000 student third place prize was Quick Hitch, a group of Western Michigan University students’ idea for an improved trailer hitch design designed specifically for a single user connecting a trailer. The hitch telescopes in and out and rotates 180 degrees, while losing none of the strength of a regular hitch.
Winning a $10,000 student People’s Choice Award was DIIME, Design Innovations for Infants and Mothers Everywhere, a social-issue business concept bred at the University of Michigan that would build inexpensive blood filters and send them to developing nations to treat ruptured ectopic pregnancies, which kill thousands of women each year in the developing world from blood loss. More at www.diime.org.
The other student finalists were:
* AddressMe, a concept from a University of Michigan student to create a Web app that makes it easy to keep up-to-date address lists. Even in an era of texting, eight out of 10 Americans still send out snail mail greeting cards, and it’s a $7 billion a year industry.
* BAHRS LLC, a concept from a Grand Valley State University student to build a new breakaway coupling for fishing lures stuck on snags. The coupling with save anglers time and money, and a competing product is both more expensive and more difficult to use.
* InnoVeri, a concept from a Northern Michigan University student that develops a personality profile of an individual based on publicly available information about them on social media Web sites. founder Rob Johnson said he got the idea when asked to take a personality profile in class. More at www.identitweet.com.
* MEMStim, a concept from the University of Michigan that designs and sells electrode leads to the medical device industry for use in neurostimulators. The company’s designs allow medical device companies to eliminate costly manual assembly processes while creating the next generation of neurological therapies.
* Natural Resource Generation, a company spawned at Central Michigan University that has patent pending rights on an alternative energy source. Its NRGmat creates energy through induction materials placed under high-traffic areas — creating power from human footsteps! Target markets are large corporations and universities.
* NHLB LLC, No Human Left Behind, an idea from a University of Detroit Mercy student for an improved spoon design for people with Parkinson’s and other neurological disorders as well as stroke survivors. It’s a spoon with a suction bulb attached that separates liquid from solid while the spoon is in transit to the mouth. When the spoon gets to the user’s mouth, they can squeeze the bulb to “shoot” the liquid directly into their mouths. Designer Jill Gorcyca says it allows people with shaky hands to eat independently without making a mess.
The competition was led by the Business Accelerator Network for Southeast Michigan (composed of Ann Arbor Spark, Automation Alley, Macomb-OU INCubator, and TechTown) in addition to the New Economy Initiative, Business Leaders for Michigan and the University Research Corridor (Michigan State University, the University of Michigan and Wayne State University) with funding support from the MEDC.
“We congratulate all the companies and students this year for demonstrating their competitive innovations and entrepreneurial spirit,” said Lauren Bigelow, executive director of the competition. “DeNovo Sciences and Fusion Coolant Systems topped a list of more than 300 outstanding businesses and students that initially entered the competition. These companies demonstrate how the entrepreneurial ecosystem continues to grow and thrive in a state that was built on the foundation of innovation.”
The competition began with a total of 312 company entries and 298 student entries before being narrowed down to 53 company semi-finalists, and 24 student/student team semi-finalists. Ten company and 10 student/student-team finalists competed on the final day of the competition for a chance at a piece of the more than $1 million in cash, as well as in-kind services.
More at www.acceleratemichigan.org.