Idea State U Promotes Innovation at Kentucky Universities

The Idea State U annual competition held each April promotes innovation and new ventures from students at Kentucky’s eight state universities.

Kathryn Royster
On Wednesday, April 17, 2013 - 10:08

Growing chia seeds as feed for horses to help prevent colic and laminitis. Detecting lung cancer by capturing and analyzing volatile organic compounds in a patient’s breath.

Those are just two of the ideas that have been introduced at Idea State U, a competition held each April in which students from Kentucky’s eight state universities invent products or concepts. Student teams compete for a combined $100,000 in cash prizes and awards and the prospect that their ideas and innovations could lead to new companies and the creation of high-paying jobs in Kentucky.

Universities represented at the competition are Eastern Kentucky, Kentucky State, Morehead State, Murray State, Northern Kentucky, University of Kentucky, University of Louisville and Western Kentucky.

“Idea State U is helping to promote a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship among our university students,” says Gene Fuqua, executive director of the Kentucky Cabinet Office of Innovation and Commercialization. “Many of the teams have gone on to form real-life companies and create real-life jobs for Kentuckians.”

Butter Factory and EcoVision

The intense two-day event is judged by executives from a cross-section of business and industry. The competition emphasizes “ready for the real world” ideas that can translate into high-growth ventures.

Topics for business plans can range from the arts, philosophy and education to technology, design and science.

For Butter Factory, an entry in the 2012 competition from Kentucky State University, students produced natural hair- and skin-care products from premium shea butter and black soap imported from Ghana. Importing the ingredients from Ghana also helps improve economic opportunities and the quality of life for the people of that country.

For their EcoVision entry, University of Louisville students developed high-quality, energy-efficient and affordable apartments with daily utility costs of about $1.60.

“The annual competition encourages the students to think outside the box,” Fuqua says. “They take calculated risks when choosing a product or technology to promote.”