Office of Research and Innovation launches Bronco Innovators Challenge

Contact: Erin Flynn

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Driven by discovery, Western Michigan University students have the opportunity to not only pitch the next big innovation but also land the support—from funding to workshops and mentors—to see their idea through to production. The Office of Research and Innovation is launching the Bronco Innovators Challenge, a semester-long commitment to propel student entrepreneurship.

Graphics in brown and gold representing design thinking, including pencils and rulers and silhouette of a head with a lightbulb inside. The text reads, "Bronco Innovators Challenge."

“WMU’s research, innovation and creative scholarship enterprise is learner-centered and facilitates transforming wishing into action," says Dr. Remzi Seker, vice president for research and innovation. “The Bronco Innovators Challenge is a great opportunity for our students to hone their entrepreneurship skills and become future leaders in innovation.”

The challenge will kick off Friday, Jan. 27, 2023, with a reception at the Fetzer Center. Students who come with ideas will get five minutes to pitch to the group. A networking and matching session will follow where presenters can recruit team members or students can hatch new ideas with each other.

"We know students thrive when they learn to collaborate and ideate with a team; it's important not only in the creative process but also in being a successful employee and team member beyond graduation," Seker says.

Two virtual pitch coaching sessions will be available on Friday, Jan. 20, for any students looking for help preparing for the kickoff. Student teams that choose to move forward to the competition and have viable innovative ideas will have access to mentoring from faculty, staff and industry professionals; one-one-one coaching opportunities; and access to workshops such as:

  • Customer Focus: Who is your customer? How do you sell to them?

  • Next Steps: Partnerships and resources

  • Funding and Financials

  • Creating a Successful Pitch Deck

Pitch decks will be due Friday, April 14, and teams will make their final presentations to judges the following week. The panel will determine which projects receive funding and how much to invest in order to move the idea forward into production.

"Western students have the opportunity to engage in real-world, resume-building experiences that will set them up for career success, and this challenge creates another path of discovery in that sense," Seker says. "I can't wait to see the ideas our students come up with!"

While not all projects may ultimately receive monetary backing, Seker believes every student who participates in the process and takes advantage of the mentorship and workshop opportunities will benefit from the semester-long challenge.

"We know that even the most successful innovators and entrepreneurs failed many times before creating a successful concept," he says. "By involving undergraduate students in this process, they will have the opportunity to participate in the challenge several times at Western, hopefully learning more about the process and potentially even discovering a new passion or making valuable professional connections along the way."

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