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u of s ilo launches the tech venture challenge

In this age of reality television where everything is a competition, it’s not surprising that business plan competitions have been sprouting up like dandelions after a rain.  Even if they are not televised events, they are popular throughout the university and economic development community.

The latest offering in Saskatchewan is from the University of Saskatchewan Industry Liaison Office, located on the fifth floor of 121 Research Drive on the Saskatoon campus of Innovation Place. What makes this one different is its focus on technology-based business ideas.

The Tech Venture Challenge is open to all members of the University of Saskatchewan community including faculty, staff, researchers, students and alumni.  The winner of the competition will receive $50,000 to build their technology-based business. Innovation Place will provide the winner with office space, parking and an internet connection for a year and Deloitte and Touche will provide business mentoring.

Glen Schuler, Managing Director with the University of Saskatchewan Industry Liaison Office answered five questions about the Tech Venture Challenge.

What’s the definition of a technology-based business?

A technology based business is defined as technology that adds higher value to products or services or creates new product or services. This technology can be in any sector, for example; ICT, Life Science, Engineering, Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Environmental.

What is the goal of the business plan competition?

Our goal is not just about the business plan; it is about starting up and building technology based businesses. We do not want the finalists to provide a good set of plans and then put them on a shelf somewhere.  One of the criteria for choosing the finalists will be how serious they are about moving to the next stage in the development of their business.     

Why is a business plan competition just for technology-based ideas?

Commercializing new technology is important in maintaining and growing a strong diversified economy in Saskatchewan.  Technology businesses have the potential to be high growth and high margin businesses and create employment opportunities that take advantage of Saskatchewan’s highly trained work force.

What are some of the business startup considerations that are unique to technology based business?

Technology businesses usually have many unique challenges compared to traditional businesses.  One of the main challenges is funding for start-ups.  Getting funding to get a technology from the lab bench to market can be very challenging, as this is not an eligible activity for research grants and it is too high risk for commercial financing institutions.   This funding gap, often referred to as “valley of death”, can prevent promising technologies from reaching the marketplace. The $50,000 in prizes for TVC can help to fill this gap.

Besides the focus on technology, what makes this different from other business plan competitions? 

Often times the applicants for business plan competitions are interested in the prize money, but for the TVC the real value is in the education and mentoring the finalists will receive as they develop their business plan.  To start a technology related business requires a broad range of skills, not only the technical knowledge but also human resources, marketing and finance, just to name a few.

For more information about how to enter the 2012 Tech Venture Challenge go to the ILO website.

- March 2012

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