Innovation Awards to Offer $155,000 to Budding Entrepreneurs Across Southeastern U.S.

April-24-InnovationAwardsLogoFSBDCN State Office: Calling all innovators—applications are now open for the inaugural Innovation Awards, a business plan competition designed to fuel technology development across Northwest Florida.

Open to businesses and entrepreneurs in Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana, the 2014 Innovation Awards is presented by Innovation Coast, Space Florida, and the Florida SBDC Network.

"This is a great opportunity for businesses and a great opportunity for Northwest Florida," said Tad Ihns, founder of Avalex Technologies and Innovation Coast Board Chair. "We have a rich and growing technology community and are excited about the chance to help new enterprises get off the ground."

"Space Florida is pleased to contribute to the rapid evolution of Northwest Florida into a technology hub, which we believe will act as a catalyst for the future expansion of an innovation economy for the state," said Space Florida President Frank DiBello.

Awards and Recognition

The top 20 semifinalists will be selected by a panel of experts to showcase their products and services before an attending audience of entrepreneurs, industry leaders, and potential investors and strategic partners. The top 10 finalists will be invited back to compete before a live panel of judges for cash and prizes valued at $155,000—making the awards the single largest business competition in Florida history.

The first place winner will receive the $100,000 grand prize. Second place will win $50,000 and third place will receive a prize package valued at $5,000 that includes free office space from the Greater Pensacola Chamber of Commerce. All top 20 semifinalists will receive an exclusive package of business mentorship and consulting from the Florida SBDC Network—the state’s leading provider of business assistance.

"Entrepreneurs and innovators create new markets, transform communities, and stimulate economic growth," said Michael Myhre, CEO and Network State Director for the Florida SBDC Network. "We look forward to partnering and supporting this exciting opportunity for Northwest Florida."

Award Requirements

The Innovation Awards are open to businesses and entrepreneurs in high-tech market sectors such as space transportation, communications, cyber security, robotics, and clean/alternative energy. Participating companies may be start-ups; however must demonstrate a pathway towards robust job creation. Winning companies must maintain a corporate presence in Northwest Florida or establish a corporate presence in the region within 90 days of selection.

The showcase will be held November 6-7, 2014 at the Hilton Pensacola Beach Gulf Front. Applications are open now through May 31. For more information, or to apply, visit

About the FSBDC Network

For over 35 years, the Florida SBDC Network has nourished a statewide partnership between higher education and economic development organizations, dedicated to providing emerging and established business owners with management and technical assistance, enabling overall growth and increased profitability for the businesses and economic prosperity for the state. A statewide service network of over 40 centers with 60 outreach locations, the Florida SBDC Network is funded in part by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), Defense Logistics Agency, State of Florida, and other private and public partners, with the University of West Florida serving as the Network's designated lead host institution. The Florida SBDC Network is state designated as Florida's principal provider of business assistance and is nationally accredited by the Association of SBDCs.

About Innovation Coast

The mission of Innovation Coast is to grow, sustain and showcase the successful, vibrant community of technology and knowledge-based companies and professionals along the Northern Gulf Coast. Innovation Coast works to foster a healthy entrepreneurial environment through mentoring, networking, partnering, and assisting with access to venture capital. Learn more at

About Space Florida

Space Florida was created to strengthen Florida’s position as the global leader in aerospace research, investment, exploration and commerce. As Florida’s spaceport authority and aerospace development organization, we are committed to attracting and expanding the next generation of space industry businesses. With its highly trained workforce, proven infrastructure and unparalleled record of achievement, Florida is the ideal location for aerospace businesses to thrive – and Space Florida is the perfect partner to help them succeed. Learn more at