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Yale alum creates annual $100,000 prize for students to take their inventions to market

By Jesse Schwartz
Published: April 4th, 2018

A former Yale University graduate student, now a successful entrepreneur, has launched a new initiative to help students commercialize their medical technologies.

In collaboration with the Tsai Center for Innovative Thinking at Yale, Jonathan Rothberg has founded the Rothberg Catalyzer Prize, which will grant funding to students who want to develop medical devices that will have a real-world impact on health care. The Prize will provide $100,000 per year over three years to students at Yale, Brown University, Carnegie Mellon and the University of Pennsylvania.

“The Prize is bringing together the maker movement, in which people build things all over the world, and hackathons,” says Rothberg. “It will provide a pathway for students to work on a team, build a product that has a societal impact and meet people in the entrepreneurial world.”

Rothberg wants students to focus on both software and hardware solutions for the health care industry –for example, a wearable technology like Fitbit that would be programmed to monitor epilepsy. He says that, unlike long-time researchers, undergrads don’t have experience in or knowledge of industry failures, which often hamper the imaginations of professional innovators.

“Students have the greatest ability to have the greatest impact, because they’re not burdened with all that can’t be done,” says Rothberg. “A junior at Yale doesn’t know all the things that don’t work, doesn’t know that something’s impossible.”

Rothberg hopes the four participating universities will collaborate each year to determine the most effective use of the $100,000 in annual prize money.

Source: Yale Daily News

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