Foster Center announces recipients of 2024 Innovation Awards

The University of Maine Foster Center for Innovation announced the third annual Innovation Awards winners, who will be honored in a ceremony at the center on April 11 as part of Maine Impact Week. The awards recognize and celebrate the impact of students, faculty, staff and alumni who are active in innovation, entrepreneurship and commercialization.

The 2024 winners include Caitlin Howel for the MIRTA Spirit Award, Kendra Batchelder for the Rising Star Award and Paul Melrose for the Doug Hall Alumni Award.  

The MIRTA Spirit Award is presented to a MIRTA team that continues to demonstrate an entrepreneurial mindset following the completion of the program, and has made significant progress in post-MIRTA commercialization efforts.

Howell, UMaine associate professor of biomedical engineering, is the first faculty member to lead two teams through the program. Her first team worked collaboratively with Sappi to develop low-cost, paper-based testing devices, and Howell received a Partnerships for Innovation award from the National Science Foundation to continue development. The second team, PROCatheter, worked on the development of a bio-inspired coating that can reduce the risk of bacterial infection associated with urinary catheters. 

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 courage and enthusiasm. 

Batchelder of WAVED Medical completed a Ph.D. in computational biomedicine in 2023. While she was in graduate school, she participated in the Foster Center’s I-Corps and MIRTA programs with her graduate advisor, Andre Khalil. They explored commercial opportunities for a technology they developed to identify women at high risk of developing breast cancer and formed a company that recently received a Small Business Technology Transfer grant from the National Cancer Institute. Batchelder was also named in MaineBiz’s 40 Under 40 leaders list.

The Doug Hall Alumni Award recognizes fundamental UMaine values of innovation, creativity and discovery reflected in the alumni community.

Melrose is the co-founder and president of Compotech, a spin-off of technology developed at the UMaine Advanced Structures and Composites Center. The company was recently named on the Inc. 5000 list of the fastest-growing companies in the U.S. and as the 13th fastest growing manufacturer, with 599% growth over three years. Compotech also earned honors as one of the top 12 composites shops in the world for its global manufacturing reputation in quality and innovative use of AI and robotics.

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.

For more information on the awards or to request an invitation to the ceremony, please contact Kerry Chasteen,