COVID 'Connect Tech' Challenge Seeks Innovators
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Lever and The Innovation Institute at the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative have announced the Connect Tech Innovation Challenge, the fourth in a series of innovation accelerator programs to identify and grow innovative solutions to challenges presented by COVID-19.
While previous editions of the Challenge series focused on individuals working on products at mature companies, the Connect Tech Innovation Challenge will focus on entrepreneurs and startups. Entrepreneurs will complete a six-week acceleration program to develop and grow COVID-inspired innovations that have potential to spark economic recovery and strengthen the flow of goods, services and information.
The Connect Tech innovations developed will enhance resiliency against future disruptions in industries including ecommerce, manufacturing, digital health, fintech, and edtech.
"These Challenges have brought out the best from innovators across our state," Massachusetts Technology Collaborative Executive Director Carolyn Kirk said. "I've watched three of these Challenges with the Lever team, and every participant has shown the ingenuity and creativity for which Massachusetts is known."
The program culminates with a final pitch competition on April 9, where a panel of expert judges will award $40,000 to the winning startup-up and $10,000 to the runner up.
Applications are now open to Massachusetts-based companies that are less than two years old, have less than $500,000 in annual revenue, and are developing products or services that focus on "connection technologies."
Submissions should highlight the commercial opportunity that exists and show the potential to create high-quality jobs in Massachusetts.
The Challenge programs are managed by Lever, a North Adams-based startup accelerator and innovation network, and are funded through a $250,000 grant from the Innovation Institute at the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, the state agency that also manages the Massachusetts Manufacturing Emergency Response Team (MERT).
"Working with intrapreneurs and MassTech throughout these Challenges has been incredibly inspiring, and I expect the entrepreneurs participating in this new challenge will be just as inspiring," Lever Executive Director Jeffrey Thomas said. "Not only are these companies' innovative products helping people across the country, they have shown us that Massachusetts has the talent and skill to adapt to anything."
Thirty Massachusetts manufacturers have participated in the series since its launch in June 2020, advancing the production of "Made in Massachusetts" products to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Speakeasy Travel Supply of Barnstable, CareAline Products of Danvers, and Shrewsbury's Industrial Polymers and Chemicals won the previous three challenges, respectively.
The Challenge programs launched in early June 2020, build on the success of the Massachusetts MERT program, a coordinated effort comprised of members from academia, industry, and government that is addressing the urgent need for personal protective equipment (PPE) and other critical items the Commonwealth's response to the COVID-19 public health emergency. Since March, the MERT has helped over 50 companies pivot their manufacturing operations to produce critical products, an effort that has helped produce over 5.5 million individual pieces of PPE.