The Kuzneski Innovation Cup is sponsored by Andrew and Laurie Kuzneski, and is for University of Pittsburgh students who are developing innovations that can positively impact people’s lives in areas other than healthcare. (Students with healthcare-related innovations should apply to the Michael G. Wells Competition.)


The students (individually or as a team) compete for the $15,000 Kuzneski Innovation Cup to help move their idea towards commercialization. A $ 7,500-second place and $5,000 third-place awards will also be given. All finalists will also promote their innovations at the Innovation Showcase hosted by the Innovation Institute, October 14, 2020.

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  • University of Pittsburgh students (undergraduate and graduate) working on Pitt technology or new idea
  • Possess an idea that could change the world
  • Interested in learning about starting a business

The deadline for receipt of applications is on Friday, May 15, 2020.


Previous Awardees

The winners for 2020 will be announced at the Innovation Showcase on Wednesday, October 14, 2020.

The Innovation Showcase provides University innovators the opportunity to present their ideas to an audience of investors, entrepreneurs, regional economic development representatives, local business executives, and Pitt alumni.

The 2017 Kuzneski Innovation Cup was awarded to the team PneuMobility, which developed a wheelchair powered with compressed air that is lighter than electric-powered chairs and is waterproof.

Second place was awarded to Framework for Reconstructing Epidemiological Dynamics (FRED), which is a statistical modeling platform that supports decision making and forecasting based on dynamic human interactions.

Third place was awarded to Slideshow Presentation Access with Real-time Communication (SPARC), which has developed technology to make presentations accessible to visually impaired people.

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    1. Student applicants must be enrolled in undergraduate or graduate classes at the University’s Pittsburgh Campus.
    2. Student applicants must represent a Pitt technology originating from Pitt research.
    3. Past winners of the Michael G. Wells Competition or the Kuzneski Innovation Cup (collectively the Pitt Student Ventures Challenge) are not eligible to compete.
    4. Applications are to be submitted using the online application by 12:00 noon EST on May 15, 2020. Please note that only responses to the required questions will be reviewed; additional materials and attachments are not permitted. For team-based ideas, all team members must meet eligibility requirements indicated above. All team members contact information should be listed on one application form.
    5. The Innovation Institute is not responsible for technical problems resulting in submissions not being received.
    6. Entries will be reviewed by a panel of judges on the basis of innovation, feasibility, market potential and student motivation/dedication.
    7. Semifinalists will be notified by Wednesday, June 3, 2020.
    8. The semifinalists will be invited for interviews (in person or via Skype) during the weeks of June 8 & 15, 2020.
    9. Finalists will be notified by June 26, 2020. All finalists will be paired with a business mentor to develop a presentation PowerPoint pitch deck and deliver a one-minute video elevator pitch of their idea at the Innovation Showcase to be held October 14, 2020. Finalists will also participate in business and presentation development workshops.
    10. All Finalists will present a short PowerPoint oral presentation to the judges during the finals and will participate in the Innovation Showcase in October 2020. All judges’ decisions will be final.
    11. Winner understands the award is to be used within the University for pre-commercialization and technology validation activities. The award funds will be transferred to a University account designated by the awardee and their faculty sponsor. Award funds must be expended in accordance with University policy and cannot be used for salary or stipend. Line item budgets will be required and must be submitted and approved by the Innovation Institute prior to the transfer of funds. A final project report is due 12 months from the date of award receipt.
    12. The University will own and protect related Pitt intellectual property rights arising from the development activities using the Award Funds. After completion of the development activities, the Innovation Institute will obtain Invention Disclosures to document, assess, and protect intellectual property. If the University licenses or commercializes any intellectual property, the awardees considered to be inventors, creators, or developers will receive a share of proceeds consistent with the terms of the University of Pittsburgh Patent Rights and Technology Transfer Policy (11-02-01) or Copyright Policy (11-02-02), as applicable.
    13. Entrants may apply to both the Kuzneski Innovation Cup with non-healthcare applications and Michael G. Wells Competition for healthcare applications if appropriate, but can only participate in one competition. The selection team will determine which competition is most appropriate for the applicant.
    14. Student cash prize of $1000 is subject to income tax and is awarded to an individual student or student team (total prize for a team is $1000).
    15. Past winning technologies/ideas are not eligible.
    16. A cash prize for the winning entrepreneurial student or student teams will be awarded for 1st , 2nd and 3rd place in the amounts of $1,000, $750 and $500 respectively. Cash awards are subject to taxation.
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