Innovation Institute and School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences Host Innovation Challenge


The Innovation Institute is partnering with the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences (SHRS) for the SHRS Innovation Challenge, which will provide a total of $50,000 in funding for commercial translation projects emanating from SHRS.

“The SHRS Innovation Challenge is an opportunity for faculty, staff, and students to translate their ideas and developments, originating in our labs and classrooms, into rehabilitation products and services that have real impact,” said David Brienza, associate dean for technology and innovation at SHRS.

The SHRS Innovation Challenge is being offered in conjunction with the Innovation Institute’s First Gear commercialization program. The next cohort runs from February through April.

Over the past 3-plus years there have been 40 innovation teams from SHRS that have participated in First Gear, which helps determine the commercial potential of Pit research. First Gear pairs each team with an experienced business mentor who guides the team through a customer discovery and value proposition defining process.

Several of those projects have resulted in startups, including Brandon Daveler’s Atimize, which is working to bring an air powered wheelchair developed at the Human Engineering Research Laboratories to life, and Noctem, born out of a partnership of Bambang Parmanto of the Department of Health Information Management and Anne Germaine, associate professor of psychiatry. Noctem is developing digital sleep solutions.

First Gear is often the first step on the commercialization path for Pitt innovators, and can be especially good experience for graduate students/postdocs who are working on research in conjunction with Pitt faculty.

SHRS Challenge Overview

  • Faculty or students with an innovation emanating from Pitt research can apply.
  • Past First Gear participants can still apply and compete for the final prize.
  • Six to ten teams will be accepted into the challenge. Each team will receive $3,000 through the NSF Innovation Corps program administered via the Innovation Institute’s First Gear innovation commercialization program.
  • All teams receive hands-on mentorship.
  • Finalists will be announced in January and compete for two top prizes of $10,000 on Tuesday, April 28, 2019.
  • The application deadline has now extended and applications are now due January 11, 2020.

For more details, view application information here or email Dave Brienza at