Ann Arbor firms score big wins at Accelerate Michigan competition

It has been hard to separate the words Ann Arbor from last weekend's Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition. The winners really added an exclamation point to the event.

If the top prize winners weren't from Ann Arbor, they at least had strong ties to it. Arbor Photonics took second place ($150,000) and University of Michigan studentpreneurs swept the top four places in the student competition with its $60,000 in prizes. The winner of the big prize ($500,000), Kalamazoo-based Armune BioScience, is developing technology that originated from U-M.

Ann Arbor SPARK took the lead on organizing the event held at U-M's new North Campus Research Complex, formerly the old Pfizer campus. The other business accelerator agencies in southeast Michigan (TechTown, Automation Alley and Macomb-OU INCubator) made the event happen with funding from of the New Economy Initiative for Southeast Michigan.

"Innovation is alive and well in Michigan," Dave Egner, executive director of the New Economy Initiative for Southeast Michigan, said during his remarks at the event. "We have definitely seen that in the last three days."

Among the other winners that happened to be based in Ann Arbor are Life Magnetics of the AARP Encore Award, Accio Energy for the Alternative Energy Award, Evigia Systems for the Defense and Homeland Security Award, Hygieia for the Medical Devices Award and Ix Innovations for the Products and Services Award. Each received $25,000 from a prize pool worth $1 million.

Organizers hope to hold the event again next year. However, they are also looking to expand the prize pool to help attract more entrants and provide more seed capital to Michigan-based companies.

"Now if we can only get our sponsors to give us 10 grand prizes ($500,000 each)," Michael Finney, formerly the president & CEO of Ann Arbor SPARK and the newly minted head of the Michigan Economic Development Corp, said during his remarks at the event. "They're going to give these companies what they need to take it to the next level."

Source: Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition; Dave Egner executive director of the New Economy Initiative for Southeast Michigan; and Michael Finney, formerly the president & CEO of Ann Arbor SPARK and the newly minted head of the Michigan Economic Development Corp
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.
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