Massachusetts Innovators Wanted For New COVID ‘Connect Tech’ Challenge

Wednesday, January 6, 2021
Innovation Institute at MassTech Collaborative


Massachusetts Innovators Wanted For New COVID ‘Connect Tech’ Challenge

First place winner receives $40,000 cash prize, second place finisher receives $10,000

WESTBOROUGH —The Innovation Institute at the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative and Lever have announced the Connect Tech Innovation Challenge, the fourth in a series of innovation accelerator programs to identify and grow innovative solutions to challenges presented by COVID-19. 

While previous editions of the Challenge series focused on individuals working on innovative products at mature companies, the Connect Tech Innovation Challenge will focus on entrepreneurs and start-ups. Entrepreneurs will complete a six-week acceleration program to develop and grow COVID-inspired innovations that have potential to spark economic recovery and strengthen the flow of goods, services, and information. The Connect Tech innovations developed will enhance resiliency against future disruptions in industries including ecommerce, manufacturing, digital health, fintech, and edtech.

The program culminates with a final pitch competition on April 9th, where a panel of expert judges will award $40,000 to the winning startup-up and $10,000 to the runner up. 

Applications are now open to Massachusetts-based companies that are less than two years old, have less than $500,000 in annual revenue, and are developing products or services that focus on “connection technologies.” Over the past year, we have seen widespread implementation of new connection technologies like contactless payment systems, telemedicine, and smart contracts.  Much of this connective infrastructure is here to stay and 2021 presents opportunities for additional advances. Submissions should highlight the commercial opportunity that exists and show the potential to create high-quality jobs in Massachusetts.

Applications are due February 19th and finalists will be selected by February 26th. To learn more and apply:

“These Challenges have brought out the best from innovators across our state,” said Massachusetts Technology Collaborative Executive Director Carolyn Kirk. “I’ve watched three of these Challenges with the Lever team, and every participant has shown the ingenuity and creativity for which Massachusetts is known.” 

The Challenge programs are managed by Lever, a North Adams-based startup accelerator and innovation network, and are funded through a $250,000 grant from the Innovation Institute at the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, the state agency that also manages the Massachusetts Manufacturing Emergency Response Team (MERT).

“Working with intrapreneurs and MassTech throughout these Challenges has been incredibly inspiring, and I expect the entrepreneurs participating in this new challenge will be just as inspiring,” said Lever Executive Director Jeffrey Thomas. “Not only are these companies’ innovative products helping people across the country, they have shown us that Massachusetts has the talent and skill to adapt to anything.”

Thirty Massachusetts manufacturers have participated in the series since its launch in June 2020, advancing the production of “Made in Massachusetts” products to help stop the spread of COVID-19.  Speakeasy Travel Supply of Barnstable, CareAline Products of Danvers, and Shrewsbury’s Industrial Polymers and Chemicals won the previous three challenges, respectively.

The Challenge programs launched in early June 2020, build on the success of the Massachusetts MERT program, a coordinated effort comprised of members from academia, industry, and government that is addressing the urgent need for personal protective equipment (PPE) and other critical items the Commonwealth’s response to the COVID-19 public health emergency. Since March, the MERT has helped over 50 companies pivot their manufacturing operations to produce critical products, an effort that has helped produce over 5.5 million individual pieces of PPE.

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About the Innovation Institute at the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative

The MassTech Collaborative is a quasi-public economic development agency that strengthens the competitiveness of the tech and innovation economy by driving strategic investments, partnerships, and insights that harness the talent of Massachusetts.  The Innovation Institute is the division of MassTech that advances its core mission of innovation and cluster growth across the Commonwealth. Created in 2003, the Innovation Institute intervenes in the economy in the following four ways:

  • Conducts research and analysis that improves the state’s understandings of unmet needs and opportunities in the innovation economy;
  • Serves as convener and key strategic broker on the landscape;
  • Manages high-value projects on behalf of the Commonwealth; and
  • Makes strategic investments in support of innovation-based economic development.

About Lever, Inc.

Founded in 2014, Lever is an economic development non-profit focused on innovation-driven job creation. Lever supports entrepreneurs with startup expertise, an investment fund, research, mentors, and access to talent. Lever has helped launch dozens of companies that have attracted more than $10 million in equity investment and have created more than 200 jobs. Lever supports existing companies by helping their intrapreneurs “innovate from within” using proven entrepreneurial methods for top-line revenue growth and job creation. Learn more at