Applications are open until March 12 for the third annual Yukon Innovation Prize. The contest, which is hosted by the the Yukon College’s Cold Climate Innovation program and the Yukon Department of Economic Development, is seeking health and wellness-related entrepreneurial ideas related to the unique challenges posed by living in the North.
Previous themes have included construction (2015) and food security (2016). Suitable entries for this year’s competition would be ideas revolving around a medical device, assistive care technology and remote care access. Once submissions are received, they are assessed by an evaluation team.
“We sit down and evaluate the proposals – the team is kept secret – and we bring in experts to help us decide,” says Stephen Mooney, director of Cold Climate Innovation with the Yukon Research Centre at the Yukon College.
Four winning proposals will be selected and the applicants will be granted $10,000 to help develop their ideas over the course of the next three months.
“The winners use that money to build a prototype, or maybe hire a market research consultant,” says Mooney.
After the three months has elapsed, the competitors return to resubmit their applications with their newly developed products. One winner is selected from these four projects and granted $60,000 to take their project from prototype to marketable product. Mooney says the winner will receive “any kind of support they need” to make that happen.
Mooney says he would like to see more women entrepreneurs this year, as the ratio of male to female applicants is approx 30 to 1; numbers which are reflected nationally, not just in the Yukon.
“We don’t get as many applications from women… it’s interesting and disappointing,” he says. “It’’s too bad, because there are some brilliant women entrepreneurs out there.”
In addition to more women, Mooney says the Yukon Innovation Prize would really like to see more applicants from the communities, not just from the Whitehorse area.
“Northerners are innovative because we have to be to survive up here,” he says.
Mooney stresses that would-be entrepreneurs considering applying for the Yukon Innovation Prize need not have a prototype ready when they enter the first part of the contest, because it’s really ideas the contest is looking for.
“People from Ottawa and Vancouver, they think things can’t be built in the North, but we’re building them,” he says. “We need these ideas to start something… Our job is to take ideas and bring them to commercial production… and that’s a big gap. We’re building an economic ecosystem of ideas that we didn’t have five years ago.”
Cold Climate Innovation is open to hearing entrepreneurial ideas to improve Northern life year round, Mooney notes, not just during the time period of the Yukon Innovation Prize.
Last year’s winner was Maxime Dugre-Sasseville, who designed a thermodynamic greenhouse that regulates temperature in order to extend the Northern growing season.
For more information on the Yukon Innovation Prize and how to apply, you can visit www.YukonCollege.yk.ca/Research/Pages/YIP.