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Blackstone Accelerates Growth and UMaine Receive Champion Award from the Maine Development Foundation for the Innovate for Maine Fellows Program

Blackstone Accelerates Growth and its partner, the University of Maine Foster Center for Student Innovation today, were recognized for the Innovate for Maine Fellows program.

The program, designed to give Maine undergraduate and graduate students opportunities to work with innovative Maine companies, was launched in 2012.

It is a cornerstone of the Blackstone Accelerates Growth initiative in Maine, whose mission is to accelerate the next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs. The program, administered by the University of Maine, this year placed 30 Maine students with 33 companies and organizations across the state. A list of students who have participated in the program is online.

Since the program’s inception, students from 16 colleges and universities have been selected for the competitive one-year fellowship. The fellowship includes training, networking opportunities and an intensive summer or academic-year internship experience with some of Maine’s leading companies and organizations. The students are matched with companies and organizations that are themselves carefully chosen for the value of the opportunity they offer students. In preparation for their assignment, students undergo a rigorous boot camp designed to introduce them to Maine’s innovation landscape and ground them in the skills required to bring products to market through UMaine’s Innovation Engineering® program.

Tony Nuzzo, a 2013 graduate of the University of Maine with a degree in electrical engineering, worked with Pika Energy in Westbrook. During his assignment, Nuzzo learned to be “unstoppable” in pursuit of his project to help Pika develop and launch a new high-efficiency wind turbine. The internship was so successful, Pika hired Nuzzo as a full-time employee in May.

Renee Kelly, director of UMaine’s Foster Center for Student Innovation, indicated the program grew significantly in 2013 in terms of both students and companies participating. More students applied for the program this year, making the selection process even more competitive. Currently, Kelly is planning on placing 50 or more students in the program in 2014, with 60 or more companies and organizations.

The Blackstone Accelerates Growth program benefits early-stage entrepreneurial companies that need skilled people, but cannot afford them. The program pays a portion of the intern’s stipend. The companies get smart, energetic interns who get to work on significant projects with interesting and growing companies.

The Maine Development Foundation (MDF) is a private, nonpartisan membership organization created by state law in 1978 that drives sustainable, long-term economic growth for the State of Maine. The Champion Award was created to recognize organizations that provide outstanding opportunities for Maine’s young people to realize their professional and personal aspirations in Maine.

“Blackstone’s Innovate for Maine Fellows program provides students and recent graduates an excellent opportunity to work with exciting Maine companies, and to see that challenging and rewarding jobs are available for young professionals in Maine,” according to MDF Chief Executive Officer Ed Cervone.

Robert Martin, president of the Maine Technology Institute, a partner in the Blackstone Accelerates Growth initiative in Maine, said this program shows that Maine has a vibrant community of entrepreneurs and innovative businesses that thrive with smart, dedicated young professionals who help build successful new businesses.

Contact: Margaret Nagle, 207.581.3745

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