A common issue that UConn faces lies in its relationship with the local Connecticut community. Mansfield residents and UConn students famously have a strained relationship, and many freshman entering campus are not even aware of neighboring towns and attractions. Efforts to integrate UConn more seamlessly with the surrounding area may seem like a pipe dream, then, but there are some entities trying to fix exactly this.
The UConn Innovation Quest is a hybrid of a competition, scholarship and educational program aimed at UConn undergraduates. It involves applying with a business idea for the possibility of winning prizes of five, 10 or 15 thousand dollars. No prior experience in the corporate world is necessary as Innovation Quest also mentors these students on how to bring their ideas to fruition.
Obviously, the main benefit to this is the possibility – however slight – of spawning a successful idea and company. Everyone has a different perspective on things, and allowing more ideas to be exposed and given a chance is a good thing for, well, innovation. Innovation Quest also offers a potential solution to the aforementioned issue of integration.
The Innovation Quest allows UConn to give back to the local community with new companies ripe for expansion. Winners of the Innovation Quest will not only be looking for assistance from the community for their business but also set up their product in the area. Previous participants in the Innovation Quest have gone on to test their product at E.O. Smith, the local high school, or in other local areas like Hartford.
Ideas pitched to the Innovation Quest are inevitably inspired by the local community, as well. Last year, recipients of the prize money included a waitress tired from working blizzard shifts with no help, a team trying to fight political polarization (in on-campus events), and a man wanting to help his friend remove an unsightly tattoo. Innovators and business startups are inspired by the problems that arise around them, and funding these endeavors represents an effort to make the local community better.
Even with many of the businesses resulting in failure and a financial loss, the Innovation Quest is still a great idea for UConn in its own quest to give back and improve its image to the surrounding area. It gets new ideas into the community, where they can attempt to stand on their own merits. The Innovation Quest officially began with a kickoff event on Feb. 12, but workshops continue throughout the month until the deadline for the competition on March 28. Regardless of previous experience, the Innovation Quest helps people with ideas help their and UConn’s homes, and there is no better goal than one like that.