Innovation Week Itinerary Revealed

Innovation Week promo graphic

Innovate Marquette SmartZone and SISU: The Innovation Institute at Northern Michigan University have revealed the full itinerary for the second annual Innovation Week to be held on NMU's campus in Marquette Feb. 21-23.

According to a press release, tickets are still available for the professional development conference, which brings together thought leaders, students, creatives and entrepreneurs to inspire, enlighten and spark curiosity.

Organizers say the conference will include impactful keynote speakers, dynamic innovation quests featuring local businesses, an exciting design jam tackling a unique and complex regional issue, a live pitch competition with thousands of dollars of prizes, multiple networking opportunities and more.

“This year's Innovation Week will continue our efforts to highlight Marquette as a premier technology hub and innovation center in the Midwest, and our exciting programming will bring together disrupters from across multiple industries to celebrate our community and each other,” said Kristin Tanner, programs manager for Innovate Marquette and member of the Innovation Week host committee. “We look forward to welcoming entrepreneurs from across the state to Marquette for Innovation Week to experience our region and witness our extraordinary potential firsthand.”

Registration will be held at Forest Roberts Theatre at NMU each day beginning at 8 a.m. Tickets will also be on sale at the door. The first day's events include a keynote address by Molly Kawahata, the founder of Systemic Impact Strategies and a former White House Climate Adviser, and a presentation on the history of innovation in the Upper Peninsula.

Following a “Lunch with Leaders” panel discussion, attendees will be able to experience one of four innovation quests in key industries: outdoor innovation, creative technology, artificial intelligence and sustainability. These quests will prominently highlight local organizations that are moving the needle in their respective fields.

The second day kicks off with a keynote speech from Scott Kuzdzal, Ph.D., the executive vice president of new strategy development for Shimadzu Scientific Instruments. After four breakout sessions and a networking lunch, attendees will be treated to a keynote by Jonathon Brown, the chief growth officer for Trend Hunter.

The final day's formal programming kicks off with two simultaneous events, including an “Ask the Experts” Expo, designed to acquaint startups and small business owners with diverse entrepreneurial support systems. This platform enables entrepreneurs and innovators to gain insights into industry experts and foster meaningful connections. During the expo, attendees will have the chance to tap into valuable resources within our community in a casual, interactive environment.

Attendees also have the option to make their way to NMU's Jacobetti Complex for a design jam meant to explore solutions to Climate Change and Sustainability through pillars unique to the Upper Peninsula. Design jams are a proven model for bringing together individuals from diverse backgrounds and empowering them with training and tools to solve complex problems in a fast-paced and high-energy environment.

Innovation Week concludes with a two-part, live pitch competition, brand new to the event and free to the public to attend, where startups and emerging entrepreneurs will compete for their share of thousands of dollars of cash prizes, investments and in-kind services:

  • “The Big Pitch,” the culminating event of the annual New Business Venture competition at Northern Michigan University held in partnership with NMU's College of Business. NMU students will present their ideas in front of a panel of judges for their share of thousands of dollars in funding.
  • The “Outdoor Innovation Pitch” will see business owners from across the state pitch their business ideas to a panel of judges. Powered by InvestUP, the Michigan Outdoor Innovation Fund invests in Michigan-based startups innovating new technology in outdoor recreation. The Grand Prize winner will receive up to $50,000 in services and investments from the Michigan Outdoor Innovation Fund, and one Make it in Michigan Award will be awarded, with the winner receiving up to $10,000 in product development services.

“For three days, the epicenter of the entire Michigan entrepreneurial community will be in Marquette as Innovation Week educates and inspires our attendees through our keynotes, innovation quests, design jam, pitch competitions and multiple networking opportunities,” said Bill Digneit, director of SISU: The Innovation Institute at NMU. “We are excited to double down on the success of last year's inaugural event and make Innovation Week a must-have on any innovator's calendar for years to come.”

For more information, including the full events schedule and times, please visit

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