Have a business idea for Alabama’s ‘new normal’? Reignite Alabama is taking applications until July 22nd

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A finalist pitching his idea to visitors and judges at the Alabama Launchpad Cycle 1 event in Montgomery on February 28th, 2020 (before social distancing). Photo via Alabama Launchpad

With our “new normal” of COVID-19, we’ve had to adjust so many things in our lives—but challenges can also bring new opportunities. If you have a new business start-up or idea that helps to solve a problem or make daily life better, Reignite Alabama wants to know.  Reignite Alabama, the 3rd Alabama Launchpad competition of 2020, aims to specifically address the new challenges that affect both Alabama and the country. Applications are open until Wednesday, July 22nd.

Alabama Launchpad

Leadership from Cerflux, a Birmingham-based biotech company, chatting at an Alabama Launchpad in early 2020. Photo via Alabama Launchpad

Alabama Launchpad is a program of the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama, a private non-profit organization with the goal of attracting and fostering innovative companies right here in Alabama. Funded by the Alabama Department of Commerce, the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs and private businesses statewide, Alabama Launchpad is the most active early-stage seed fund investor in the state. In fact, the competition has invested $5.7 million in 94 emerging Alabama startups since 2006.

During each Alabama Launchpad competition, several startups compete for a portion of $150K in startup funds. Participation is beneficial to each contestant, whether or not they win: each finalist gets up to five qualified professionals to review their entire business model three times throughout the experience.

This quarter, Alabama Launchpad is doing things a bit differently.

“The EDPA’s Alabama Launchpad program remains a cornerstone of the state entrepreneurial ecosystem. Their agile response to driving innovation in key industries in response to the COVID19 pandemic is a true demonstration of Alabama’s focus on economic leadership, startup support and innovation.”

Toni Eberhart, Board Member, Urban Engine

Reignite Alabama

Graphic via Alabama Launchpad

“Reignite Alabama focuses on four critical elements to the state’s ability to restore a sense of normalcy and retain our competitiveness. The competition is an ideal way to stimulate fresh approaches that can make a difference in these challenging times.”

Greg Canfield, Secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce

Since its effects were first felt, the COVID-19 pandemic has presented entrepreneurs throughout Alabama with an opportunity to use their creativity and innovation to enact positive change.

Alabama Launchpad is calling on all Alabama entrepreneurs to help reignite hope and innovation in our state during Reignite Alabama. The competition will focus on four sector challenges that require improvement. Through their startups, inventions or ideas, participants will aim to improve one of these sectors.

Applications are open now through Wednesday, July 22. Learn more and apply now!

“Now more than ever, we need the spark of innovative ideas to drive new growth and add resilience to our recovering economy. Through the Alabama Reignite competition, we can evaluate a raft of great ideas from entrepreneurs on how we can accelerate that recovery, especially in sectors that are critical to our future.”

Greg Canfield, Secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce

Sector I: Commercial, Retail and Live Events

How do we use innovation to enjoy our lifestyles again?

I sure miss hanging at Birmingham’s local breweries. Photo via Matthew Niblett for Bham Now

One of the most tangible effects of the pandemic is the loss (or great reduction) of our social lives. Apart from trips to the grocery, most Alabamians have greatly reduced the amount of time they spend at bars, restaurants, barber shops, retail shops and more.

Participants in Sector I of Reignite Alabama will aim to address this loss and its implications by focusing on one of several problems, such as:

  • How can we
    • …increase resiliency and profit of food and beverage businesses while maintaining safety.
    • …enjoy shopping at small and large retailers.
    • …enhance shopping at grocery stores, supermarkets, and farmer’s markets
    • …improve safety and customer experiences for travel, lodging and accommodations.
    • …improve access to hair/nail salons and other services with safety.
    • …strengthen the safety of our supply chain, so that food and beverage sources are kept moving.
    • …diversify the supply chain to assure more continuous operations when parts of the supply chain break (for example, increasing access to local farmers, ranchers, etc. to fulfill food needs).
    • …improve safe attendance to all live events, such as sports, music, worship, conventions and more.

“Reignite Alabama is a call to all Alabama innovators and entrepreneurs – asking them to focus their talents on new business solutions to help our State come out of the pandemic stronger than before and better prepared to manage any other crisis that the future brings.”

Theresa Welbourne, Executive Director, Alabama Entrepreneurship Initiative

Sector II: Healthcare

How do we make our healthcare centers in both rural/urban centers and workforce more resilient and adaptable?

Birmingham, UAB, MOXIE, ventilators
A medical professional recording data at UAB. Photo via Lexi Coon, property of University of Alabama at Birmingham

“Reignite Alabama will give us insights on ways we can make our health care centers more adaptable and safer for caregivers.”

Greg Canfield, Secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us how incredibly important our healthcare workers and systems are—but it has also shown us how vulnerable they can be under pressure.

This year is the perfect time for innovative companies to design products and systems that ease the strain on our healthcare workers. Take, for instance, MOXIE IoT, a recent Alabama Launchpad winner who designed a Bluetooth system that allows healthcare workers to wirelessly monitor patients’ ventilators from a safe distance.

Reignite Alabama participants will address several of the issues surrounding our healthcare system, such as:

  • How to…
    • maintain worry-free emergency, primary, and specialist healthcare environments from a patient perspective.
    • … guarantee workforce safety on the frontlines of healthcare.
    • …continue to make improvements in production, purchasing and inventory management of PPE.
    • ….use innovation and sector understanding to increase sterilization.

Sector III: Education

How do we use this opportunity to reinvent education?

Graduation in the age of social distancing. Photo via Woodlawn High School on Facebook

Social distancing has presented a number of issues for people in school, namely—how can students continue to receive an education outside of the classroom? While some schools have adopted programs like Microsoft Teams or Zoom, there is still a ways to go. Participants in this sector will address these issues and more, such as:

  • Finding better ways to access distance learning platforms regardless of educational level or learning style.
  • Access to safe childcare environments so that parents can fulfill job expectations, even when schools are closed.
  • Offering access to hardware/software for teachers and students creating new learning techniques.
  • Creating resources to help teachers, parents, and students educate and learn more effectively and efficiently.
  • Increasing classroom participation, engagement and content retention.

Sector IV: Industry

How do we optimize Alabama’s industrial sectors for efficiency and safety?

The Alabama River Cellulose pulp mill in Monroeville, Alabama. Photo via Matthew Niblett for Bham Now

When we first realized the severity of COVID-19, the sudden demand for essential items like toilet paper, hand sanitizer and food items forced local industry to both ramp up production and strengthen their supply chains.

Alabama’s industry may be behind-the-scenes, but its importance in our day-to-day life cannot be understated. Innovative solutions from Reignite Alabama can tackle some of these issues, such as:

  • Maintaining workforce safety without manufacturing interruption.
  • Increasing supply chain flexibility and diversity to accommodate sudden fluctuation in demand.
  • Introducing new uses of robotics or other forms of automation
  • Flexible workforce engagement in manufacturing.

Be the change you want to see.

Alabama Launchpad finalists have a burning desire to change Alabama for the better. Photo via Alabama Launchpad

“Reignite Alabama is truly a pivot for Alabama Launchpad as we collectively course correct during and post COVID-19. We believe innovation will help us create new norms for Alabama, the country and the world as we want to be at the center of positive change and growth.”

Dennis Leonard, Innovation Consultant, EDPA

Reignite Alabama is counting on the entrepreneurial spirit in Alabama to help tackle these issues head-on. Whether you’re part of a startup, working on a game-changing invention or even have a brilliant idea, Reignite Alabama is the place to turn your innovation into positive change.

Remember, applications are open now through Wednesday, July 22. Learn more and apply now to take your vision to the next level with the help of Alabama Launchpad.

“After watching what this pandemic has done to our state’s economy, I couldn’t be more excited to see the effort around Reignite Alabama. One thing that’s different about this competition is that applicants don’t necessarily have to be early-stage startup companies.  If an established business has an idea that fits in one of the sectors, the competition is open to them.  I like the idea of encouraging and including Alabamians who work in more traditional business environments to think outside the box to address some of these concerns.”

Miller Girvin, Alabama Capital Network

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  • Tennessee native who fell in love with Birmingham during college. Graduated from Birmingham-Southern College in 2019. Passionate about Birmingham and its continued growth.