Six honorees to receive Foster Center Innovation Awards

The University of Maine’s Foster Center for Innovation has announced the winners of its inaugural Innovation Awards, who will be honored in a ceremony at the center April 14 as part of Maine Impact Week.  

The Innovation Awards were developed to recognize and celebrate the students, faculty, staff and alumni who are working to commercialize university research innovations. The inaugural group of winners includes individuals working in aquaculture, biomedicine, medical technology and the study of innovation. 

As the hub of innovation-focused activities at UMaine, the Foster Center is the base for programs and services that support entrepreneurship, business development and commercialization of university research. It is home to UMaine’s I-Corps program, in which researchers can explore the commercialization potential of their STEM-based innovations, and the MIRTA accelerator, designed to advance research innovations to market. The center also offers academic courses in innovation open to both undergraduate and graduate students, and is home to a student business incubator. 

“This year’s winners are a cross-section that beautifully illustrates UMaine’s research innovation across disciplines,” says Renee Kelly, assistant vice president of innovation and economic development. “We are so excited to recognize their accomplishments in commercialization and the work that they have done to realize their ideas, as well as to showcase the expanding culture of innovation on our campus.”

The 2022 Innovation Award winners are: 


Standout Startup Award: Ferda Farms

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. 

Impressive Innovator Award: Kendra Batchelder

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.  


MIRTA Spirit Award: Team Xylogen

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.

Foster Innovation Award: Dorothy Klimis-Zacas

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. 


Rising Star Award: KinoTek

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.

Doug Hall Alumni Award:  Doug Hall

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.

For more information on the awards or to request an invitation to the ceremony, please contact Emma Richardson (