February 14, 2006

Business contest emphasizes innovation

by Tom Woolf

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Innovative Southern Illinois business owners can compete for prizes totaling $215,000 in a contest that rewards job creation and revenue generation.

INNOVATE Illinois is open to innovative, revenue-generating small businesses located in Illinois operating in the state's leading industries: manufacturing, business or health services, environmental, agriculture or technology. For purposes of the contest, the definition of innovative is a novel product, service or internal process that solves a market problem or internal inefficiency. Successful innovations must demonstrate the potential to foster economic growth through job creation and/or revenue generation. To be eligible to enter the contest, a business must generate no more than $5 million annually.

The statewide competition, sponsored by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity and several other agencies, offers a total of $175,000 in cash and in-kind awards. In addition, there are three regional competitions – including one for Southern Illinois.

The Southern Illinois Entrepreneurship Center, located in Southern Illinois University Carbondale's Dunn-Richmond Economic Development Center, and the SIU Edwardsville Entrepreneurship Center, are partnering to offer $40,000 in prize money for innovative Southern Illinois businesses. First-place winner in each of the five categories will receive $5,000; second place in each category, $2,000; and third place, $1,000.

Preliminary applications, due March 1, are available online at www.innovateillinois.org. Announcement of regional finalists is set for March 13, with the announcement of 25 statewide finalists set for May 19. The statewide awards ceremony is set for June 15.

"The preliminary application is a very simple online, fill-in-the-blank process," said Emily Carter, director of the Southern Illinois Entrepreneurship Center. "Getting involved is easy and potentially very beneficial to Southern Illinois entrepreneurs."

For additional information, contact the Southern Illinois Entrepreneurship Center at 618/453-3805 or visit innovate@siu.edu.

Promoting and developing economic opportunities in a variety of sectors is among the goals of Southern at 150: Building Excellence Through Commitment, the blueprint the University is following as it approaches its 150th anniversary in 2019.