HOUGHTON (WWJ) — Four companies from the western Upper Peninsula are among 50 semifinalists in North America’s largest business plan competition, the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition.

The companies will compete for cash prizes, including a $500,000 grand prize, in Detroit in Nov. 14.

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The western UP contenders are:

* BridgeGuard, Hancock: BridgeGuard uses infrared technology and digital imagery to detect and document defects in bridge decks and substructures. Bridge scans are completed at highway speeds using a vehicle-mounted proprietary sensor suite to gather an array of defect data, eliminating the need for lane closures. Road user costs for commerce delays and safety issues are also eliminated, ultimately saving significant tax payer dollars.
* LiteBrake Tech LLC, Hancock: LiteBrake Tech LLC is a research and development firm that developed patent-pending steel-clad aluminum brake rotors for automotive OEM and aftermarket industry applications. SCA brake rotors are recognized for their improved performance, durability and light weight.
* REL Inc., Calumet: REL Inc. developed and is producing lightweight composite brake discs for the motorcycle and automotive markets. REL’s Matrix Brakes are 50 to 80 percent lighter and quieter than standard steel and cast iron disks, and carry a lifetime guarantee.
* Upland Nanotech, Houghton: Upland Nanotech developed a rapid sensing technology used for food pathogen detection and drug-level concentration that can yield results within 20 minutes. Based on nanowire technology, the sensors are hypersensitive, enabling testing without the 12 to 24 hours of culture enrichment required by others.

Accelerate Michigan participating companies get guidance from expert mentors, introductions to the private investment community, introductions to new markets and more in addition to the competition’s monetary awards.

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“Opportunities and competitions like this one position more local companies for rapid growth by way of additional monetary investment if they win,” said Jonathan Leinonen, program director of the MTEC SmartZone in Houghton.

Leinonen has been helping each company through the competition process, offering guidance on their submissions and final pitches. Each company will give their presentation at Orchestra Hall in Detroit Nov. 14.

“The goal is to create opportunities that will continue to exist here in Michigan,” Leinonen said. “The companies with whom we’ve been working stand to contribute significantly as they move through this process.”

For more information about Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition and the company semi-finalists, please visit http://www.acceleratemichigan.org.

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More about the MTEC SmartZone at http://www.mtecsz.com.