By: Josh Sloat
There are problems and then there are good problems. The quality of your submissions once again blew us away! This made for an incredibly difficult selection process – so many incredible innovations, all backed by stories of personal inspiration, focused solutions, and true entrepreneurial grit. Even though the world is far from back to normal, your resolve, steadfastness, and creative spirits have not been tempered one bit. After much vigorous deliberation by our selection committee, and our desire to help as many inventors as we can, we opted to once again lift the constraints of the original plan beyond the single $5,000 award to include the addition of awards to two other exceptional finalists.
Using a weighted matrix, our team scored applications based on the following criteria:
We can't say it enough, but the recipients are a truly gifted collection of entrepreneurs who will surely do great things. We couldn’t be more thrilled about the potential to be a part of their journey!
Drumroll please! And the 2022 awards go to...
We're so very pleased to announce that the first place, full $5,000 award, goes to heARsight LLC. heARsight's mission is to empower people who are d/Deaf or hard of hearing (HOH) with innovative tools that contribute to better speech comprehension and an overall higher quality of life. Their innovation is a pair of augmented reality smart-glasses that provide subtitles to a user during their in-person conversations. The need for assistive tech like this is massive – the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates the number of people globally who suffer from hearing difficulties to be 430 million. This number is expected to grow to 2.5 billion by 2050 due to the aging global population and unsafe listening practices. This mission is a personal one for the heARsight team – the company was founded by Danny Fritz and Riley Ellingsen during their time as Master's students at Notre Dame, where Danny conceived of the idea from his lived experience watching his girlfriend, Meg, struggle with hearing difficulties in everyday settings.
Our thought bubble. When we look for ideal RISE recipients, we look closely at potential for societal good matched with a team that can execute. heARsight is just this type of impactful innovation, backed by the kind of DNA it takes to see through to market success. Assistive technology is a corner of the market that unfortunately still has too much white space and we’re happy to help them fill it, in any way we can!
We’re excited to share that we’ve selected ThermoVERSE as our first runner-up, to receive a $4,000 award. ThermoVERSE is focused on pioneering technology that will deliver cost-effective heating and cooling energy retrofits so that low-to-middle income (LMI) housing property managers can reap the benefits of an energy efficiency (or building code) upgrade without having to open up the walls. Low-to-middle income housing constitutes approximately 30% of all housing stocks in the U.S., and retrofitting buildings to accommodate new HVAC installations often comes with the surprise of required building code upgrades that can triple expected costs! The goal of ThermoVERSE's highly modular thermoregulation systems will be providing thermal comfort without the need for these costly energy retrofits.
Our thought bubble. Their innovation is both timely and necessary. Given skyrocketing energy costs, soaring home prices, and housing shortages across the country, disruption in this space is essential to maintain viability for as many LMI properties as possible.
The RISE award offers the peace of mind for IP management that ThermoVERSE has been looking for. As an early-stage, unincorporated company it is often difficult to navigate IP without financial assistance, let alone attract the interest of investors. The team at Aurora Patents seems to be cognizant of this, and is coordinating with my local economic development hub, Ann Arbor SPARK, to ensure that any additional IP needs of ThermoVERSE are taken care of.
Spirit Fire Aftermarket
We are delighted to report that we've selected Spirit Fire Aftermarket as our second runner-up, also receiving a $2,500 award. Spirit Fire developed a solar powered light that activates at night when in motion. With traditional truck cab lights, you have to drill holes and rewire the whole vehicle to connect the light wires to the car battery. With Spirit Fire's lights, you just peel and stick the lights where you want them and they turn on at night when you're driving due to special sensors detecting light and certain kinetic energy. Luciano and his team have bootstrapped the entire mission, right down to the creation of the custom tool required to make the lights.
Our thought bubble. We love gritty entrepreneurs who roll up their sleeves and find ways to innovate. Spirit Fire's story is a great example of finding a real market need, self-bootstrapping, and doing a practical thing well.
We're firmly committed to the RISE award being an annual fixture. We love helping entrepreneurs. It's what gets us out of bed in the morning. Getting to help even more in an epically difficult time has proved to be exceptionally rewarding for us and we're certain it will prove to be such for the recipients. Please stay tuned for updates on these great companies. And if you haven't already, check out our recent podcast episode featuring a great sit down with three very innovative, up-and-coming inventors – all past recipients of the RISE award.
Ashley Sloat, Ph.D.
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