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Innovation Quest Kickoff Provides Unique Opportunity to Students

By David Wiegand
On February 11, 2014

Innovation Quest, a non-profit organization aimed at bringing out the innovation of college students, kicked off its annual competition with a workshop at UConn's Charles B. Gentry building on Tuesday, Feb. 11. 

According to its website, Innovation Quest (iQ) was created to "foster innovation and entrepreneurship" in the student body, and in its third consecutive year at UConn there is much anticipation for the next big ideas to come. The audience contained students from numerous backgrounds, including biomedical engineering, English, communications and many more, all eager to hear more about how to develop and drive their ideas.

The organization seeks good ideas for projects among college students, and then decides which ideas have the most merit and provides funding, mentoring, and other assistance to innovative students. A panel of UConn alumni, many of them successful CEOs of their own working hand-in-hand with iQ, will mentor the students in their own quests. 

iQ sponsors a $15 Thousand grand-prize contest to see who has the best, brightest and most marketable idea. The winner of this contest will gain recognition and seed money, both vital assets for a startup in any field. Second and third place will receive $10 and $5 thousand, respectively. In preparation for the contest, there will be four developmental workshops as well as a six day "start-up boot camp" in the summer, where students will hone the marketability of their products and refine their understandings of their models, as explained by Dr. Robert Dino, the director of UConn's Innovation Quest and associate professor at the School of Business.

"Nobody has control over ideas. They come from everywhere," Dino said. 

Dino expressed his confidence that UConn students "generate innovative ideas that address a market need," and that with help from seasoned alumni, business veterans with a "philanthropic interest" in helping the UConn community thrive.

A commonly recurring theme for the initial session, titled "Creativity, Innovation & Entrepreneurship," was "giving back," as many UConn alumni mentioned their intentions to channel their successes and experience back to the university's students. 

One alumni, Kevin Bouley, is the CEO and president of Nerac, a research and advisory firm that deals specifically with the kind of innovation iQ is looking for. Bouley said that he can help by hosting a "business incubation environment" in which students' talent and hard work can pay off. He said he has worked with many people with "important ties to UConn" and that he can offer his expertise to anyone who would have their idea "turned into a commercial venture."

Last year's grand prize winner, Mark Smith, had an idea for "a low-cost portable imaging device that enables the user to capture spectacular high-resolution images" of scientifically or medically pertinent objects, and he developed the Macropod. Since, his idea evolved into a full business-Macroscopic Solutions, LLC-highlighting the value of iQ in helping students like him.

Keith Fox, Managing Partner of iQ-and alumnus of UConn's School of Business-said that iQ is "about giving students the real choice to start their life journeys by starting their own companies with the help of interested alumni and university leaders," a quote displayed on the UConn branch of the website. 

Anyone is encouraged to bring their innovative idea, and as the iQ webpage puts it, some "of the greatest innovations come from the quiet people that originally don't think what they are doing is significant, but are doing it because it is cool to them."

Readers wishing to learn more about the program can visit http://innovationquest.org/uconn for more information. 


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