The University of Pittsburgh has opened the Big Idea Center startup accelerator. Pitt founders and entrepreneurs now have a place home for for campus innovation.

This is a natural extension of the Randall Family Big Idea Awards which I’ve covered for years. That competition awards $100,000 split among student startups with the best pitches, teams, and technologies. The competition, much like the new center, is open for University of Pittsburgh undergraduates through post-docs.

Disclosure: I’m In-Residence at Carnegie Mellon University’s Swartz Center for Entrepreneurship. CMUxPitt put aside our differences during the upcoming Global Entrepreneurship Week which is November 14 – 20, 2022.

Patrick Gallagher, University of Pittsburgh Chancellor, attends the grand opening of the Big Idea Center. Foo Conner | Jekko.

The opening of the Big Idea Center is a milestone for Pitt entrepreneurship. While it is no statue for Babs Carryer the Former Director of Big Idea Center who built billions, it is a step in the right direction. The 5,500-square-foot space includes the adjacent property of 122 Meyran Avenue, the former Revv Oakland co-working space. And strategically speaking, it is in the heart of Keystone Innovation Zone (KIZ) which provides significant tax credits for Pennsylvanian companies.

The new center also includes a Saxbys. The Philadelphia based coffee company is a B-corp focused on universities locations. Sajeda Virji, the Saxbys’ Communications Manager, explains that that location provides an Entrepreneurial Proving Grounds. Its connection with the Big Idea Center will give entrepreneurs a unique look at how brick and mortar businesses operate. Additionally, those working at the location could qualify for academic credit.

Becca Segal, Founder of FlowCellutions, discusses battery technology for a greener future. Foo Conner | Jekko.

The grand opening also highlighted startup stars.

Becca Segal, who was the 2022 Big Idea Award winner of $25,000, presented her company that focuses on a self-healing energy grid. Her company FlowCellutions helps with the testing and deployment of energy storage across national power-grids. Their technology hopes to prevent brown outs keeping grids healthy with a their diagnostic innovations for Redox flow batteries (RFB). As we capture more solar energy, FlowCellutions ensures its their to warm our homes at night.

Emily Siegel of Trek Gum, who won the 2019 Big Idea Award, was another startup standout presenting at the grand opening. Trek Gum is a material science company for taste buds. Ever wonder why gum stains the sidewalks we trot? That’s because 95% of gum is made from synthetic plastic and rubber. Yuck. Trek Gum, produces new environmentally friendly gum formulas without plastics. Their initial batches focus on dental care for those who want to score a gold star at the next dentist visit.