(© Can Stock Photo / dolgachov)(© Can Stock Photo / dolgachov)

Entrepreneurs challenged to come up with COVID-19 recovery ideas

Entrepreneurs across southwestern Ontario with ideas on how to deal with the current health and social issues of COVID-19, and how to rebuild the community once the threat has passed could win some seed money to get their business off the ground.

Libro Credit Union, Pillar Nonprofit Network, and TechAlliance have teamed up to challenge local innovators through the newly created Recovery and Rebuilding the Region: Design Challenges. The individual or group with the winning 'made in southwestern Ontario' products, services, or solutions will be given $20,000 and receive coaching to move the project forward swiftly.

"Since the pandemic began, everyone in our society has been clamouring for solutions to so many problems. Now we want to create a chance to find those solutions," said Jill Brush, Libro Credit Union regional agriculture and commercial manager. "Libro is committed to playing its part and we call on everyone in the community to promote and discuss The Design Challenge, and to join it if they can."

The first of the two challenges - recovery - focuses on the immediate health and social issues caused by the virus. The application process opens to the public on Thursday. The winner will be announced on May 5.

The second challenge, dubbed rebuilding, will follow. In this instance, entrepreneurs are tasks with developing supports that would aid in the area's economic recovery. An exact date for applications to be submitted for this phase of the challenge has not been released.

“Compassionate and decisive action to help innovators launch and accelerate growth for their ventures will be essential as we rebuild post-COVID-19," said TechAlliance CEO Christina Fox. “We're grateful to be leading this call for ‘made in southwestern Ontario’ solutions in partnership with two organizations devoted to social responsibility, and with the commitment of two other Regional Innovation Centres. This initiative truly embodies the collaborative Ontario spirit."

The challenges are open to anyone from areas in and around Windsor, Chatham-Kent, London, Elgin County, Oxford County, Huron County, Perth County, and Kitchener-Waterloo.

The successful applicants will be selected based on five criteria including human-centred innovation, regional impact, visibility and design, equity and inclusion, and design scalability.

In addition to the $20,000 financial investment, the winner will also receive coaching from the partner organizations.

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