As the state continues to struggle economically, one competition is encouraging students to help stimulate growth in Michigan through their innovation and entrepreneurial skills.
The competition, the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition, is the world’s largest business competition and aims to engage the state’s college students and business community. The competition is in its second year and offers a $25,000 grand prize.
Lauren Bigelow, executive director of the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition, described the program as “an idea competition” that gives students the opportunity to consider what they would do if they had their own businesses.
“We’re just looking for students to come together (and) see what creative ideas they’ve got out there,” Bigelow said.
Four students from the Ross School of Business — Hunt Briggs, Paul Davis, Robert Levine and Nolan Orfield — won last year’s grand prize in student category with their proposal to have grocery stores convert their waste products into energy that could be used to power their facilities.
Beyond the cash prize, the competition is mainly designed to bring students into contact with members of the business community and “link students with mentors and coaches and folks in their immediate vicinity,” Bigelow said.
“We really want to keep bright students in Michigan, so a lot of this is about how can we get the student population engaged with the business community, (and) how people can get in touch with different corporations,” she said.
The competition also connects students with major local businesses and corporations, Bigelow added. The 25 semifinalists will get the opportunity to meet with representatives from Dow Corning, DTE Energy and Ford Motor Company.
Students who are interested in participating in the competition are required to be enrolled in at least two classes at a university within the state of Michigan. To apply, students must submit a one-page description of their business proposal by Sept. 30.
Each proposal will be assessed on the basis of its clarity of presentation, creative innovation, intended market and ideas that will have a broad impact.
“(It’s) really worth the opportunity because (semifinalists) get a chance to rub elbows with large investment firms (and) large corporates in a setting that would really set them apart and really give them a leg up in terms of internships and career possibility,” Bigelow said. “And in today’s job market, that’s just incredibly valuable.”
The competition is part of the New Economy Initiative for Southeast Michigan, a philanthropic initiative aimed at improving the state’s economic standing. The funding for the New Economy Initiative comes from local corporations, which collectively donate $100 million. The competition is also funded by other organizations including the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, Business Leaders for Michigan and the University Research Corridor.