Deadline Looms for Sikorsky Innovations Entrepreneurial Challenge

 - October 5, 2012, 9:36 AM
Pankl Aerospace Innovations won the first Sikorsky Innovations Entrepreneurial Challenge for its technology demonstrator, which featured active camouflage, bionically inspired rotor blades and advanced aerodynamics. Shown here is Pankl Aerospace Innovations CEO Sonya Zierhut.

Technology entrepreneurs take your marks! This year’s Sikorsky Innovations Entrepreneurial Challenge is open for submissions, but you have to act fast. Applications must be received by 5 p.m. EDT on Wednesday, October 10. Sikorsky Innovations is a division of Sikorsky Aircraft.

Sikorsky Innovations Entrepreneurial Challenge is a serious contest with significant prizes. The winning team will receive a year’s use of office space at Sikorsky’s Stamford, Conn. Innovation Center and access to the facility’s business services, mentoring programs, education programs and events, all for no charge. In addition, Sikorsky Aircraft, which is a founding member of the Innovation Center, will provide team members a three-month education program at Sikorsky, giving them guidance in both technical and business strategy. Finally, upon completion of the maturation cycle, a Sikorsky panel will evaluate the team’s results for consideration of investment in the project by Sikorsky or introduction to other investors.

To enter the Entrepreneurial Challenge, now in its second year, teams select one or more of five defined “Challenge Questions” to answer, such as, “How can your business concept use vertical flight to better serve or create new markets?” and “How can your business concept introduce new approaches to preserve, stabilize or heal damaged systems and structures?” Detailed information about the challenge, including the questions, can be found here

Sikorsky Innovations allows itself the option of selecting more than one winner or none at all. Last year, the company declared Pankl Aerospace Innovations of Cerritos, Calif., the winner, but awarded participation in a three-month education program to Smart Rotor Systems of Ottawa, Ontario, and additional interaction with Sikorsky mentors to Drew Lambert, an individual inventor. The challenge is open to any small company with revenue of less than $5 million, including newly formed and pre-revenue entities.

“The caliber of applicants for the first Sikorsky Innovations Entrepreneurial Challenge exceeded our expectations,” said Laurence Vigeant-Langlois, Sikorsky director of business development and technology partnerships. “We felt there is a value in maturing more than one of the innovative business concepts, so we decided to grant awards to two additional finalists. Sikorsky Innovations looks forward to supporting the maturation of three distinct and deserving teams’ initiatives.”

Pankl Aerospace Innovations began its “incubation” at the Innovation Center at the beginning of this month. “Should a longer-term relationship be identified as mutually beneficial, we may also elect to set up future agreements,” said Vigeant-Langlois.

The first challenge attracted a half-dozen applications, although one was disqualified for late submission, she told AIN. “We then invited three teams to compete in the final round and they all chose to attend the event,” he said.

Ten judges reviewed the entries. “Our internal judges were technical and business generalists, although we also invited our internal experts in the relevant areas to vet the technologies presented,” Vigeant-Langlois explained. “Our external judges represented a mix of successful entrepreneurs and angel investors.” She said the Entrepreneurial Challenge itself was modeled after university-type business plan competitions, although Sikorsky “adapted it to its needs as a corporation.” The helicopter builder launched its involvement with the Stamford Innovation Center and our Entrepreneurial Challenge in February this year.