Sixteen teams of University of Colorado faculty, researchers and graduate student innovators competed for a combined $1.5 million in startup funding grants in this year’s Lab Venture Challenge (LVC). Judges from CU Boulder’s entrepreneurial network heard Shark-Tank-style pitches across two nights, one for innovations in biosciences and another for physical sciences and engineering.
Through LVC, top innovators from CU Boulder, Denver and Colorado Springs compete for grants of up to $125,000. LVC supports projects that address a commercial need, have a clear path to a compelling market and have strong scientific support. The LVC grants are funded by the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT) Advanced Industries Program, as well as Venture Partners at CU Boulder and the Chancellor’s Innovation Fund. Additional funding from OEDIT this year allowed each night’s top competitor to receive an additional $7,505 to fund their project further. Twelve awards were granted this year for a total of $1,515,010.
This culminating event for these groundbreaking teams showcased the university’s initiative to support innovators from discovery to economic success. LVC is run by Venture Partners at CU Boulder, the university’s commercialization arm and central resource for researchers who wish to translate their work into impactful business and social ventures. As part of the LVC program, all the competitors worked with Venture Partners to protect their innovations and practice their funding pitches for business audiences. LVC awardees will continue to work and collaborate with Venture Partners on their path to commercialization.
“This was our most competitive year yet,” said Amy Dodenhoff, director of LVC. “Over 40 teams applied, and we are so proud of all the teams, finalists and winners. LVC really shows how Colorado and CU are on the cutting edge of innovation, and it was great to see the community show up for our most well-attended showcases ever.”
Most competitors this year participated in Starting Blocks Customer Discovery Workshops and the Research-to-Market (R2M) Customer Discovery Program, presented by Venture Partners’ I-CorpsTM Hub: West—one of only five National Science Foundation Innovation Corps Hubs. I-CorpsTM helps innovators take their work from the laboratory to the marketplace through customer exploration and market research.
The Colorado economy was a recurring theme as competitors pitched their plans to grow their ventures—and to attract and foster new talent—right here in Colorado as they strive to serve and even disrupt global industries.
To date, LVC has funded over 107 projects through 54 new deep-tech startup companies; collectively, these companies have raised over $349 million in follow-on financing.
Applications for the next LVC will open in July 2024.