Cin-novation

With one week remaining, Cincinnati Innovates has already exceeded its own expectations. Close to 175 entries have been submitted to the online innovation competition.  Conceived and supported financially by regional companies, foundations and firms committed to driving the long term economic growth of Cincinnati through innovative ideas, the competition is open to anyone regardless of level of expertise with an innovation, idea, or invention and a Greater Cincinnati connection - whether from Cincinnati originally or someone who lives or works in the tri-state area now.

So with little time left, what kind of innovations are turning up in the competition?

"Some are off the wall, but a lot of them have a lot of potential," says Elizabeth Edwards, a venture capitalist with Neyer Holdings and one of the organizers. Edwards, along with James Zimmerman of Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP, and Carolyn Pione at cincytech, have invested significant time reviewing entries and answering questions about this first year competition. Edwards says she was originally inspired by similar prize based innovation competitions in Chicago and Pittsburgh, and wanted a better way to find inventors and technologies in her own city.

"As a venture capital investor, I'm always interested in hearing what my neighbor is working on. Cincinnati historically has been a very innovative city."

According to Edwards, 75% of the inventions that are ultimately patented are from private businesses and individuals, not the corporate world. Cincinnati Innovates' applicants are no exception.

The youngest Cincinnati innovator so far is 15 years old - the oldest is 90.  Edwards says submissions are coming from professors, scientists, students, and lots of 'mom-entrepreneurs.' The types of proposed innovations run the gamut from the potentially silly: 'front and back backpacks,' designed to distribute the weight of a student's book load evenly while slightly resembling a normal backpack worn in reverse - to potentially world changing: an ecological fire extinguisher designed for third world shantytowns where access to water and traditional fire fighting technology is virtually non-existent.

And some inventions are very close to home.

Inventor Patrick Yovanov submitted his design for a central venous catheter home care device designed to alleviate the pain and complications of cancer patients undergoing treatment. Yovanov should know: he based his invention on his own experiences as a leukemia survivor.  

To increase the possibility that an innovative idea meets reality, financial awards are being offered in multiple categories and include a Community Choice Award determined by a combination of views and votes, and a Student Innovator Award.  Patent awards offered by the law firm of Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP also offer thousands of dollars of in-kind pro bono legal services.

Interest in the online competition this past month has been feverish, Edwards says, with close to 200,000 page views in the past 90 days. You can see all the innovative ideas, vote for your favorite, or maybe check out the competition here.

The competition remains open until Tuesday, September 1. Until then, you can submit your innovative idea online.  Award ceremonies are open to the public and scheduled for September 18 at the Contemporary Arts Center. Tickets can be purchased online.  
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