Smaller firms will be put to the challenge

Feeling up to a challenge?

The quasi-public business collaborative Connecticut Innovations announced this week that up to $500,000 in funding is available to small firms interested in tackling technology problems in cooperation with state universities.

The program, called the Connecticut Innovation Challenge, will set up as many as five teams to overcome four key technology challenges posed by larger businesses in the state. The problems already have been identified and chosen based on the strongest market potential for a solution and and on their orientation toward Connecticut's strength in advanced manufacturing, product development and information technology.

Winners will be chosen based on evaluation criteria found in the request for proposal. A panel of three reviewers, including two from the large businesses involved in the project, will score each proposal.

"There is an extraordinary amount of talent to be found in Connecticut's business and academic communities, so it makes perfect sense to connect the groups and tap into their collective expertise," said Claire Leonardi, chief executive of Connecticut Innovations, in a statement.

Each team, which is expected "self-select" its members and the university it will collaborate with, can receive up to $150,000 in funding. The participating businesses must match the contribution from Connecticut Innovations, to prove they have "skin in the game," according to Roberta Rossi of Connecticut Innovations.

The four problems to be solved involve micro grid technology, biomass conversion, rechargable power and manufacturing process improvements.

Participants will decide among themselves how to divvy up the resulting intellectual property. Deadline for applications is Jan. 24 of next year. For more information, go to http://www.ctihub.com/.

"No single organization has all the answers - that's the driving principle behind what we do," said Deb Santy, director of the organization's Small Business Innovation, in a statement. "Our programs support an open innovation philosophy, because when you bring creative minds from industry and academia together, it leads to visionary solutions that advance innovation."

l.howard@theday.com

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