UVa-Wise student Casey Taylor was the winner of the UVa-Wise Entrepreneurship Cup Concept Competition. The mathematics major won for the concept of a personalized 3D water bottle cap, via a built-in sensor, to let parents track their child’s water consumption.

Each year since 2016, UVa-Wise has held the Entrepreneurship Cup Concept Competition in the Fall semester as part of an effort to boost entrepreneurial thinking on campus. The purpose of the Concept stage of the competition is to surface and seed ideas from all parts of the university at every stage of development. Students are encouraged to come up with out-of-the-box ideas that could be translated into compelling projects. The competition awards $1,750 to students with business ideas.

This year 13 teams submitted for the Concept Competition. Joshua McCray, with his concept to reduce stress by offering an on-campus location for massages,  and Talesia Yancey-Scarbor, with an inventive automated toilet seat disinfectant system, were the runners up.

The UVa-Wise Entrepreneurship Cup Concept Competition is all part of an Appalachian Regional Commission study called the Entrepreneurial Ecosystems in Appalachia.  The report features in-depth case studies of entrepreneurial dynamism in eight Appalachian communities. The efforts of Opportunity SWVA and The University of Virginia’s College at Wise to build an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Southwest Virginia were featured in one of these case studies. Since the research of the report was compiled, many of the activities discussed have come to fruition in the Southwest Virginia Entrepreneurial Ecosystem.

UVa-Wise was recently awarded $3.485 million from the University of Virginia Strategic Investment Fund to increase enrollment in targeted programs at the College and to create a robust culture of entrepreneurship and innovation in the region. The SIF grant funding created the Summer Program in Entrepreneurship and Cyber (SPEC) boot camp, which took place in July 2018, with 36 local and international students on campus at UVa-Wise. Additionally, key personnel have been hired to complete the UVa-Wise Innovation Ecosystem team. These include the Entrepreneurship Professor/Director, Innovation Center Manager and Program Coordinator.

In September 2018, thanks to the support from the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development and the University of Virginia’s Strategic Investment Fund, The Nest Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation was opened to all students with ideas for startup businesses and provides space to work, meet and hold events. The Nest will offer a collaborative space off-campus for incubation of business concepts along with workshops, panels, talks and connections to successful entrepreneurs in Southwest Virginia to mentor students.