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Invent Oregon, Oregon's Innovation Competition, Launches for 2021

Updated: Mar 23, 2021

The innovation competition is the culmination of the invention pathway, Oregon’s statewide K through capstone entrepreneurial pipeline for economic talent development

The Invent Oregon Collegiate Challenge (InventOR), Oregon’s only statewide invention competition hosted by Portland State University's Center for Entrepreneurship, returns in 2021 for its fifth year of student-pitched inventions and innovations.

Held virtually to maintain social distancing, this year’s InventOR will feature new programming intended to open the competition to a greater number of students across the state. Any college or university entrepreneurs with an idea to prototype are welcome to apply. Additionally, the challenge will include panels of experts in fields such as entrepreneurship, STEM education, healthcare, and transportation to share their knowledge and provide mentorship to competitors.

In 2020, sixteen teams participated in InventOR. This year, twenty-two teams from colleges and universities across Oregon are expected to compete for $30,000 in cash prizes with innovations that target our region's most pressing problems related to climate change, healthcare, transportation and housing. The finals are scheduled to take place June 25 in a virtual program that will be accessible to all and continue to protect participants from the ongoing pandemic.

With mentorship and support provided by faculty at two dozen colleges and universities, InventOR works with students to brainstorm, fine-tune and prototype their ideas to develop a business plan and pitch to investors. Participating teams receive a $2,500 prototyping grant to fund the process.

“InventOR programming provides the experiential opportunities to propel student innovators to solve big problems and find the creative energy to build out their ideas into prototypes and companies,” said Joe Janda, PSU Assistant Vice President in Research and Graduate Studies.

InventOR is the capstone of Oregon's growing invention pathway, which includes K-12 invention education experiences and other collegiate competitions around the state. This pathway drives the engine of entrepreneurial talent development in Oregon. Recent InventOR winners such as Safe Start, NexGarden and ProduceMate are in various stages of commercialization and with founders who are committed to building their businesses in Oregon.

"InventOR is providing a path for Oregon College students to explore and experience invention and create marketable solutions that will bring positive change to our communities," notes Carol Dahl, executive director at The Lemelson Foundation. "This approach to fostering home-grown invention and entrepreneurial talent helps create opportunity for a more inclusive, equitable and resilient economy here in Oregon."

This year, the participating institutions include Clackamas Community College, Eastern Oregon University, George Fox University, Klamath Community College, Linfield College, OHSU, Oregon Institute of Technology, Oregon State University, Portland State University, Rogue Community College, Southern Oregon University, University of Oregon, University of Portland, Warner Pacific University, and Western Oregon University.

InventOR is made possible with the support of sponsors including The Lemelson Foundation, which supports inventors making a positive impact around the world. Lemelson helped launch the competition in 2016 and continues to lend programmatic and financial support.

In addition to support from The Lemelson Foundation, InventOR is sponsored by Business Oregon, Horan MediaTech Advisors, Oregon Community Foundation, Portland State University, Stoel Rives, and The Ford Family Foundation.

“We are doubling down on efforts to support the next generation of Oregon collegiate inventors and entrepreneurs,” said Juan Barraza, Director of Student Innovation. “Each one of them is hard at work in solving the problems that affect our communities. Utilizing sound science and engineering, they will be creating the next wave of enterprises that will fuel Oregon’s economic development for years to come.”

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