The Foster Center Innovation Awards recognize and celebrate innovation and entrepreneurship in the University of Maine community.
Community nominations are now open! We are seeking nominees for the Impressive Innovator and Dough Hall Alumni Awards. If you know of a deserving student or alumni please fill out our online form before Friday, March 10th, at 5pm. Self-nominations are welcome!
University system faculty and staff may be nominated for the inaugural Presidential Innovation Award. Nomination forms and criteria are provided by the Office of the Provost.
Read more about the 2022 winners.
Congratulations to the 2023 Award Winners!
Christopher Erb, an undergraduate Engineering major and founder of Intelli-Tex LLC, a startup smart materials business pursuing developments in clean energy, interior design, and color theory, is this year’s Impressive Innovator. Building from his time as a Research Assistant at the Advanced Structures and Composites Center, Intelli-Tex LLC is only the latest innovative project for Christopher. He is also a Research Assistant in the Howell Biointerface and Biomimetics Lab, where he studies novel uses of stereolithographic 3D printing, and a Technology Program Manager for EmpathyFX International, a non profit organization that equips schools in Ghana with school supplies and educational technology. The award recognizes a University of Maine student who has utilized their passion for learning to develop unique social, cultural, or economic solutions that leave a lasting impact on campus or in the world.
The Veterinary Immersion Plan, led by undergraduate Animal and Veterinary Sciences student Zachary Inniss, is this year’s Standout Startup. Presented to a student-led startup at the University of Maine that has exhibited initiative, resilience, and humility when faced with challenges, VIP is a program that seeks to break down barriers to veterinary practice by increasing access to information, resources, and training that helps disadvantaged students engage with the veterinary field and its professionals. Also the President of Pre-Veterinary Club, Zachary exemplifies leadership that encourages the success of others in his field.
FlaVR Labs, a company that explores how computing technologies can be applied to augment the traditional human-food interactions, is the winner of this year’s MIRTA Spirit Award. Recognizing a team from the MIRTA program who have continued to demonstrate an entrepreneurial mindset and make significant progress in the continuation of their commercialization efforts, this year’s recipient is pursuing research with far-reaching implications. FlaVR Labs is currently developing ways to allow sodium-restricted diets to include salty sensations without negative effects, alcoholic beverages to taste the same without the presence of alcohol, and incentivize overall healthy eating habits while maintaining the flavors people love.
Marin Skincare, led by Patrick Breeding ’17, ’19G and Amber Boutiette ’17, ’19G, is the recipient of this year’s Rising Star award. Grounded in the research of Professor Emeritus Dr. Robert Bayer, Patrick and Amber synthesize regenerative lobster glycoproteins into a soothing hydration cream that can soothe eczema and improve overall skin health. Not only have the pair received overwhelmingly positive reviews for their creation, but they also partner with Luke’s Lobster to maximize the lobster supply chain, upcycling glycoproteins that would ordinarily be thrown away. During their time on campus, Patrick and Amber won the undergraduate Innovation Award at the 2017 undergraduate Student Symposium. The Rising Star Award honors a recent University of Maine graduate, or graduates in this case, who have seen rapid growth and success in an entrepreneurial venture and who inspire other young innovators through their courage and enthusiasm.
Owen McCarthy ’10 is this year’s winner of the Doug Hall Alumni Award. While on campus McCarthy pursued a bachelor’s degree in biological engineering and was a member of the Senior Skulls and Sigma Phi Epsilon. He later attended Harvard Business School to pursue his MBA. McCarthy continues to be an active member of the university community; since graduating he co-founded the UMaine Business Challenge and has served as both the chair and vice chair of the Board of Visitors. In his spare time McCarthy is the President and Founder of MedRhythms, Inc., a neurotherapeutics organization that develops musical treatments to aid patients who suffer from a range of neurological injuries and conditions, including strokes, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson’s disease. Building off 30 years of academic research into the functional health benefits of music therapy, MedRhythms, Inc. has delivered over 30,000 hours of direct patient care and partnered with Universal Music Group to create the first prescription music platform. The Doug Hall Award is presented to an alumnus whose innovations have driven social, cultural, or economic impact in Maine and beyond.
Learn More About Our 2022 Winners!
The Impressive Innovator Award is presented to a UMaine student who has developed innovative solutions leading to social, cultural or economic impact on campus or in the wider world. This year’s winner is Kendra Batchelder ‘11, ‘13G, a UMaine Ph.D. candidate in computational biomedicine and member of the Computational Modeling, Analysis of Imagery and Numerical Experiments (CompuMAINE) lab led by professor of biomedical engineering Andre Khalil. The two are co-inventors of a patented computational approach designed to aid in the early detection of breast cancer and have been working to commercialize this technology.
The Standout Startup Award is presented to a student-led startup at UMaine that has exhibited initiative, resilience and humility in the face of challenges. This year’s winner is Ferda Farms, an oyster farm on the New Meadows River in Brunswick, Maine that was co-founded in 2018 by high school friends Max Burtis and Sam Dorval. During their college years, Burtis, a senior mechanical engineering major, and Dorval ‘21, incubated their business at the Foster Center, working to scale up production and diversify their crop.
The MIRTA Spirit Award is presented to a MIRTA team that, following completion of the program, continues to demonstrate an entrepreneurial mindset and that has made significant progress in post-MIRTA commercialization efforts. This year’s winner is Team Xylogen, which has formed a biomedical startup to commercialize a nanocellulose composite material suitable for a range of biomedical uses. Since completing the MIRTA program in 2019, the team, led by professor of biomedical engineering Michael Mason, has partnered with BESPA GLOBAL, a consortium of doctors experienced in commercializing technology, to create Xylogen Medical to bring this technology to market. The company has secured its first medical device company partnership, established a research, development and commercialization timeline, and is generating prototypes for customer and market evaluation.
The Foster Innovation Award honors a UMaine faculty member who has developed meaningfully unique solutions that have resulted in social, cultural or economic impact in Maine and beyond. This year’s winner is professor of clinical nutrition Dorothy Klimis-Zacas, who has developed wound-healing treatments from Maine wild blueberries for the commercial marketplace, leveraging decades of research into one of Maine’s signature crops.
The Rising Star Award honors a recent UMaine graduate who has seen rapid growth and success in an entrepreneurial venture, and inspires other young innovators through their courage and enthusiasm. This year’s winner is KinoTek (co-founded by Justin Hafner ‘18 and David Holomakoff ‘14, ‘17G) a Portland-based company that has developed a digital movement analysis platform that delivers whole-body insights into a person’s dynamic movement. Incubated at the Foster Center and developed with support from the Virtual Environment and Multimodal Interaction (VEMI) Lab, the company has grown rapidly, with a team that includes several UMaine alumni.
The fundamental UMaine values of innovation, creativity and discovery are naturally reflected in our alumni community and, in its first year, it is only fitting to present this award to its namesake in recognition of his contributions to the university. Doug Hall ‘81 is the founder of Eureka! Ranch and co-inventor of the Innovation Engineering curriculum that is the foundation of many Foster Center programs. First taught at UMaine, Innovation Engineering has been adopted by educational institutions around the U.S. and the world, and used to train more than 1,000 Maine government officials and business leaders in the principles of innovation. Hall is author of seven books, has co-hosted network television and radio programs, and contributed to new product development for many household brands.
Impressive Innovator Award: One of the key characteristics of an innovator is the ability to make unique connections between seemingly unrelated ideas. Driven by a passion for learning, they are always searching for meaningful and unique solutions. The Impressive Innovator Award is presented to a University of Maine student who has developed innovative solutions leading to social, cultural, or economic impact on campus or in the wider world. Eligible recipients must be current UMaine students (any level). Open to nominations from the UMaine community.
Doug Hall Alumni Award: The fundamental University of Maine values of innovation, creativity and discovery are naturally reflected in our alumni community. The Doug Hall Alumni Award (named for Doug Hall ‘81, founder of Eureka! Ranch and co-inventor of the Innovation Engineering curriculum first taught at UMaine and adopted by educational institutions around the U.S. and the world) honors an alumnus who is recognized for innovation-driven social, cultural or economic impact in Maine and beyond. Eligible recipients must have graduated from the University of Maine. (In 2022, this award will be granted to namesake Doug Hall. It will be open to nominations from the UMaine community beginning in 2023.)
Presidential Innovation Award
Beginning in 2023, in recognition of the mission of advancing learning and discovery through excellence and innovation, the President will award the Presidential Innovation Award to a University of Maine or UMM faculty or team who has translated research discoveries and scholarly activity into products or services that have resulted in economic impact or significant social and cultural benefit in Maine and beyond.
Tenured UMaine, UMM and Cooperative Extension faculty, full-time lecturers (in their sixth year of service or beyond), and staff (in their sixth year of service or beyond) are eligible for this award. The recipient receives a medallion and a monetary award.
Nomination forms for all Presidential awards and their criteria are provided by the Office of the Provost.
Awards nominated by the Foster Center team
Standout Startup Award: In the world of entrepreneurship, teamwork is central to success. Individuals, each with their own perspectives and strengths, support one another to turn their shared entrepreneurial vision into reality. The Standout Startup Award is presented to a student-led startup at the University of Maine that has exhibited initiative, resilience, and humility in the face of challenges. Eligible recipients must be current UMaine students (any level) who are collaborators on an active startup venture. Selected by the Foster Center team.
MIRTA Spirit Award: Every innovation starts with an idea. Bringing that idea from the conceptual stage to reality requires dedication and flexibility. UMaine’s MIRTA program is designed to help teams build an entrepreneurial mindset and guide them through the initial stages of the commercialization process. The MIRTA Spirit Award is presented to a MIRTA team that, following completion of the program, continues to demonstrate an entrepreneurial mindset and that has made significant progress in post-MIRTA commercialization efforts. Eligible recipients are University of Maine System teams that have participated in the Foster Center’s MIRTA program (any completed cohort). Selected by the Foster Center team.
Rising Star Award: Entrepreneurship is a bold path at any age, full of twists, turns and uncertainty. The Rising Star Award honors a recent University of Maine graduate who has seen rapid growth and success in an entrepreneurial venture and inspires other young innovators through their courage and enthusiasm. Eligible recipients must have graduated from the University of Maine within the past five years and be the founder or co-founder of a company. Award may be granted to an individual or to a company founded by an individual who meets the eligibility criteria. Selected by the Foster Center team.