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Not Business as Usual (And That's Good)

Attention, loyal readers: I am a woman true to my word. I hinted to you that the new Business Accelerator Network for Southeast Michigan would be doing great things – and now the group is ready to announce its first big move.

Today, the Accelerator Network will announce its “Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition,” an international business plan competition. The goal is to get people at all levels of business to start thinking about how to grow – and invest – in Michigan. It is the largest business-plan competition in the world. Yes, world. Not exaggerating. (More on See pictures of the remains of Detroit)

Here's the shiny bits: The competition winner will get $500,000. The stipulation: The winning company MUST be based here in Michigan. So we all win with this one. Get busy, entrepreneurs!

“This will show the work that's underway in a number of sectors trying to make it work in Michigan,” said David Egner, one of the organizers and all-around good guy.

Background: The Accelerator Network for Southeast Michigan is composed of four of the region's key business accelerators– Ann Arbor SPARK, Automation Alley, Macomb-OU INCubator, and TechTown. The University Research Corridor (Michigan State University, the University of Michigan and Wayne State University) and Business Leaders for Michigan also are joining the Competition as partners.

Here's the skinny from Egner (who heads the New Economy Initiative, which is helping fund this business accelerator and the like). The competition focuses on two groups: students and early-stage businesses (new and established companies). An early stager generally is one that has “proven technology” and a bright future to turn this rusty old state around. (More on See a video on battery technology in Detroit )

Participants have nine categories open to them: advanced materials, advanced transportation, alternative energy, homeland security and defense, information technology, life science, medical devices, next generation manufacturing and products and services. Students who are in undergraduate or graduate schools (only Michigan universities or colleges) may apply as well.

The competition kicks off today and ends with a massive brunch in Ann Arbor on Dec. 11. The judges are going to be looking at whether the idea is feasible, its potential is for creating jobs and its viability in the economy, Egner said. In addition to the brunch, there will be a big tailgate party with the judges and participants at the University of Michigan vs. Michigan State University “Big Chill” hockey game at Michigan stadium.

Why wrap up at a hockey game? Egner said there is a method to the madness. First, it is a great prize. Second, it gets those all-important university partners fully involved in the whole thing. But more importantly, it might woo more venture capitalists and the like who are UM or MSU alums to come home and act as judges. They can watch the game, see all the great ideas and then invest in the state. Really, invest in the state. We need it. (More on Read one fan's view of the University of Michigan's football program)

“I'm excited because it's going to bring attention to the innovation that already exists here in Southeast Michigan,” Egner said. “It's not like this stuff has not been happening and all of a sudden we're going to bring it. It's just going to shine a light on what's going on.”

For more information about the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition, visit here, or connect with the competition via Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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