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VT KnowledgeWorks Innovation Challenge 2016

The VT KnowledgeWorks Innovation Challenge was designed to accelerate innovative technology transfer from the university to the private sector. The annual Innovation Challenge prize provides $100,000 worth of mentorship and business support services to a winning team of Virginia Tech faculty, staff, students and/or alumni proposing to establish a new venture in Blacksburg, based on Virginia Tech-owned technology. Services are provided over a two-year period and include assistance in developing the overall business strategy as well as the presentations and plan documents needed for investor discussions and product launch.

Ryan Senger (center) and John Robertson (right) of DialySensors, winners of the 2016 VT KnowledgeWorks Innovation Challenge (photo by Keith Pierce)

Applications for the 2016 Innovation Challenge prize are due by February 19, 2016. Instructions and guidelines on how to apply are available here.

Services Provided to Winner

The winning team receives both corporate and personal mentorship from the VT KnowledgeWorks executive director and its director of strategic services. The VT KnowledgeWorks strategic services team performs various strategic studies and develops presentation materials and formal plan documents needed for product launch and investor discussions, including financial pro formas. The VT KnowledgeWorks network of early-stage investors provides introduction to a wide range of funding opportunities.

The venture receives complimentary membership in VT KnowledgeWorks for two years and key team members attend an Entrepreneurship Option workshop. In addition, 50% of one-year’s rent at the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center provides the venture an attractive launch pad.

View last year's winner here.

Application Submission Process

Applicants may be individuals or teams, but key members must be:

  • Employed by or a student at Virginia Tech or Virginia Tech alumni
  • Willing to commit seriously to the development of the proposed commercial enterprise
  • Able to fill the technology leadership roles in the proposed venture
  • Committed to locating business operations in Blacksburg, and
  • Committed to submit SBIR or equivalent proposals during the first year of the award that would provide funding support for products developed based on the underlying Virginia Tech-owned technology.

Applications must be submitted in accordance with the Guidelines and show that:

  • The technology forming the basis for the new venture is developed beyond "pure science" and available for licensing from Virginia Tech
  • Proposed products based on the technology would have a clear competitive position in the marketplace
  • The proposed target markets would be receptive to new entrants; at least one clear addressable customer base must be identified, and
  • The venture has a conceptually viable financial model with sustainable, scaling revenues and earnings.

Application Evaluation Process

A selection committee of successful entrepreneurs and investors from the region reviews all submissions and selects a group of up to five finalists who will make a 10- to 15-minute presentation on the proposed new venture.  The presentations will be in front of a live judging panel in a non-public meeting on March 16, 2016, at the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center. The committee may interview teams before the selection of the finalists.

Additional Support for Innovation Concepts

Through the Innovation Challenge, several runner-up applications may be selected for modest business development support. The following services will be provided to the runner-up winners.

  • business plan development assistance
  • one year of VT KnowledgeWorks membership
  • Running Start application assistance
  • four meetings with a seasoned professional mentor
  • IP protection options overview
  • commercial insurance offerings overview
  • human resources issues and answers overview
  • financial and administrative checklist
  • preliminary legal discussion
  • banking services primer
  • public relations tips
  • consultation on the realities of web presence
  • local and regional start-up press releases


Company: VT KnowledgeWorks
Street: 1715 Pratt Drive, Suite 1000
Postal/City: Blacksburg, Virginia 24060
Phone: 540-443-9100
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