The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) is sponsoring the “We’re All Innovating Contest” to recognize and promote the creative ways startups and small businesses are adapting to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The contest will provide a total of $3 million to approximately 195 winners selected through a competitive process to support new business models and technological innovations, from specific health-related solutions to technology that addresses how we’re changing the way we live, learn and work. Top winners in the categories will receive a maximum of $68,000 to take their ideas forward.

“Despite the pandemic, Wisconsin’s culture of innovation is thriving,” said WEDC Secretary and CEO Missy Hughes. In its Wisconsin Tomorrow report to lawmakers and Gov. Evers this summer, WEDC identified support for innovation as one of its top priorities to help advance the state’s economic recovery from the pandemic. Funding for the contest will come from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

The contest aims to provide funding for both new and existing companies that have introduced innovations responding to direct health and economic impacts of COVID-19; launching new innovations, including business models and best practices for operating during COVID-19; and providing access to capital statewide, including rurally located and ethnically diverse entrepreneurs.

The contest is designed to reward as many of these ideas as possible. It will help offset costs incurred since March 1 and those anticipated through Dec. 30. Additional criteria will consider progress to date and the potential for the innovation to move forward.

The competition is open to new and established businesses with 50 employees or less. Businesses may enter in one of the following categories of innovation:

- Technology innovation to address COVID-19 impacts on health

- Technology innovation to address COVID-19 impacts on businesses

- Service and business operation innovations to respond to COVID-19 disruption

The deadline to apply is 11:59 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 18, 2020. For additional details and to apply, visit wisconsininnovates.com. WEDC is working with the Wisconsin Technology Council and judges across the state to process and evaluate applications for the contest.

The “We’re All Innovating Contest” is the latest effort by WEDC to assist small businesses in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

WEDC distributed more than $65 million in CARES Act funding to nearly 26,000 businesses under the We’re All In Phase 1 grants this summer. Additionally, WEDC provided more than $2.5 million in state funds to diverse businesses under the Ethnic Minority Emergency Grant program and $5 million to microbusinesses through the Small Business 20/20 program.

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