Community Resources

UWRF Innovation Challenge


Have a big idea? Undergraduate and graduate students can explore the possibility of turning their business ideas into reality utilizing the Lean Startup Methodology. 

Competition Basics

Student teams select a faculty mentor and register for the competition here. All teams will be required to utilize the Business Model Canvas. Teams will prepare a 10-minute presentation covering their business idea and their utilization of the Business Model Canvas. For examples of these presentations, view the past winners here. Watch the video below to learn more about the Business Model Canvas and associated Lean Startup Model.

For more information, see the Student Orientation Packet


Frequently Asked Questions

Competing teams should consist of at least one and no more than three undergraduate degree-seeking students who are enrolled part-time (minimum of six credit hours) or full-time at a UW System school (except UW-Madison) in the semester of the Wisconsin Big Idea Tournament (spring semester). Graduate teams interested in applying for the International Business Model Competition at-large category must be degree-seeking and enrolled part-time during one semester of the academic year the competition takes place.

Yes, international students are eligible to participate if they are enrolled as an undergraduate with a minimum of six credits in the spring semester. 

Non-undergraduate students (or graduates) may be part of the venture but cannot participate in the state or international competition (e.g., pitching, Q&A, etc.). The eligibility requirement is any student participating in the state or international finals needs to be an undergraduate enrolled in a minimum of six credits in the spring semester. In general, a member of the student team should be CEO, COO or president of the venture, or members of the student team should occupy 50 percent or more of the functional area management positions that report directly to the CEO, COO or president.

Participants own the IP (Intellectual Property) and can disclose to WiSys or file for a patent on their own if they want. We don't require anyone to sign an NDA or non-compete to participate. This defeats the purpose of this type of format and is becoming a standard practice for accelerators and angels/venture capitalists. At the center of what participants are going to be judged on at the State Final is Lean Startup and customer development which shouldn't require dissemination of proprietary information. Participants should instead be focused on telling their learning journey and how they validated (or invalidated and pivoted) the elements of their business model.

Check out these resources for more information on this topic.

You can connect with Sheri Marnell if you need assistance finding a mentor.

We will assist you in finding additional team members if needed. Additionally, feel free to network at the Ideathon event to find other students that may be interested.


Innovation Challenge Timeline

October 20, 2021

Innovator in Residence

2-3 p.m.
UC Ballroom

More info at:

October 27, 2021



Let us know you're interested!  Email

March, 2022

Innovation Challenge 



April, 2022

WI Big Idea Competition


Prizes and Awards


1st Place= $2,000

2nd Place=$1,000

3rd Place= $500

WI Big Idea Tournament, 1st Place = $25,000 Ideadvance Grant

IBMC, All Competitors= $2,000 and may win up to an additional $30,000


Business stipends must be used for activities or supplies directly related to starting or growing the business idea entered in the Innovation Challenge.

Additional incentives

  • Entry into and travel to the Wisconsin Big Idea Tournament in Madison, WI, for the 1st place winner
  • Assistance applying to the International Business Model Competition at-large option
  • Access to Learn Startup workshops
  • Feedback from entrepreneurs and regional business leaders serving as competition judges
  • Opportunity to present your business idea to the UWRF Foundation Board for funding consideration


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