Alltech founder and president Dr. Pearse Lyons has announced the formation of the $500,000 Lyons’ Den Innovation Fund, designed to spur innovation in the food, beverage and agricultural sectors.
Lyons personally endowed the fund, which is open to applicants whose projects would have positive economic impacts in Alltech’s home state of Kentucky—the firm is headquartered in Lexington—and also Lyons’ native Ireland.
Winners are selected through a series of panel reviews and workshops. Specifically, they are chosen based on the economic viability of their projects. The amounts given to winning teams is determined by Lyons and a panel of judges.
The fund springs from the Alltech Innovation Competition, which launched in 2013, and was initially designed to inspire entrepreneurship and help find solutions for some of the economic problems plaguing eastern Kentucky. Following the success of this competition Lyons started a sister competition in Ireland. Both contests are now annual events.
Winning ideas for the Innovation Competition have included: a plan to reclaim mountaintops by using switchgrass that can then become fuel, a device that detects poisonous gasses from slurry, and FuturFry—a deep fryer that could save restaurants up to 40 percent on annual cooking oil costs.
“From our Innovation Competition, it is clear that curiosity and ingenuity are alive and well in Kentucky and Ireland, and now we have the opportunity through the Lyons’ Den Innovation Fund to empower people to make their ideas a reality and oil these regions’ economic engines,” Lyons said in a press release announcing the fund on Monday. He added these contests exist specifically to create jobs.
The winner of Kentucky’s 2014 Alltech Innovation Competition was the University of Louisville team Trifecta Cooking Equipment, LLC, which patented the FuturFry deep fryer.
Alltech was founded in 1980 by Lyons, and currently has over 3,000 employees, and is located in 128 countries. The firm’s primary mission is to improve the health and nutrition of people, plants and animals through adding materials to food and feed through the use of yeast fermentation, enzyme technology, algae and nutrigenomics. It claims an annual growth rate of 20-25 percent, and close to $1 billion in annual sales.
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