Entrepreneurs with ideas for new businesses can win significant cash prizes for their plans and receive substantial support for their initiatives through an annual regional business plan competition announced today at the “Making Rochester Hot” meeting of area business and economic development leaders.
Duncan T. Moore, Rudolf and Hilda Kingslake Professor of Optical Engineering at the University of Rochester, announced the new competition as one of several positive steps in response to the findings of the Greater Rochester Innovation Benchmarking Survey, which were unveiled at the meeting.
The survey, conducted by the Center for Regional Innovation at the Council of Competitiveness in Washington, DC., was commissioned by the Infotonics Technology Center and the Greater Rochester Enterprise. The findings emphasized many of the area’s strong points, but pointed to a conservative investment culture embodied in a lack of “an entrepreneurial spirit” and a dearth of high-quality, technology-based business plans. Together, these factors restrain investment in the area by venture capitalists.
According to Moore, the new business plan competition, conceived during a collaborative brainstorming session at Infotonics and scheduled to begin in the spring of 2006, will offer at least $150,000 in cash prizes and an equal amount of in-kind support to help get the new businesses off the ground. Funding will come from the public sector, corporations and individuals.
“Our vision, consistent with Infotonics founding principles, is to overcome existing regional limitations with strong support from five metropolitan areas – Rochester, Buffalo, Syracuse, Ithaca and Toronto,” Moore said. “By combining the resources of these communities, we can launch a national-class business plan contest to attract entrepreneurs and investors from outside and inside this Northern corridor.”
He noted that each of the five cities would serve as host for the competition on a rotating basis. The 2006 competition will be hosted by Rochester.
David R. Smith, CEO of Infotonics, emphasized that the “in-kind” support could be as valuable and as important as the cash awards. “The in-kind support could be in the form of office space, marketing help, manufacturing capabilities, or a wide variety of other things,” Smith said. “This is a real incentive for the competition winners to set up their businesses in this region.”
Smith said that Infotonics expects to provide office and laboratory space and technology development support to the highest rated business plan in the microsystems and photonics technology area.
In addition to the open competition, Moore said he expects to see separate categories for college graduate students, college undergraduates, and high school students. Prizes in these competitions could include both cash and scholarships.
Additional details about the business plan competition will be available in the coming months, Moore said.