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Exact Sciences, BrightStar & More Win Wisconsin Innovation Awards

Xconomy Wisconsin — 

Long-range laser beams, an at-home colon cancer test, and two efforts to digitize the classroom garnered some of the 10 honors announced at the second annual Wisconsin Innovation Awards Tuesday night at Milwaukee’s Discovery World.

The awards recognize cutting-edge companies, foundations, and programs in the Badger State across a range of industries. Judges narrowed 170 nominations down to 33 finalists, and then picked winners in the nine categories. A “People’s Choice” awardee was also selected, through online voting.

Here are winners in each of the categories:

Arts: The Bubbler, a series of hands-on programs for all ages at Madison Public Library branches, including a designated room at the recently renovated Central Library. Local experts lend their talents and equipment at “pop-up” workshops, which cover everything from 3D printing to fashion design to brewing beer.

B2B: Madison-based Red Card Media, for its Athletics Meal Program, which allows college athletic departments to put money on an app or debit card that players can use at local restaurants. The meal plan is compliant with NCAA rules and can be configured to provide trainers with information on what student athletes are eating.

Biotech: Marshfield-based Microscopy Innovations, for its mPrep system, which allows microscopy lab workers to more easily introduce fluids into capsules and track specimens, while reducing the amount of disposable lab equipment used.

Education: StudyBlue, an interactive repository of digital educational materials. Over 8 million learners use the Madison-based service, which in December upped its most recent funding round to more than $2.1 million, according to SEC documents.

Healthcare/Health IT: Exact Sciences (NASDAQ: EXAS), for Cologuard, its non-invasive, stool-based DNA colorectal cancer screening test. Riding the success of the test, made for people 50 and older and the first of its kind approved by the FDA, the company has raised millions and is considering moving across town to a proposed new development in downtown Madison.

Manufacturing: Madison-based Alfalight, for its portable, battery-powered, non-lethal laser device, which military personnel can shine into vehicles approaching a checkpoint and, if occupants appear threatening, keep trained on the windshield, obscuring the driver’s vision. The experience is similar to driving with the sun directly in one’s eyes, said Ron Bechtold, Alfalight’s VP of Sales and Marketing.

Nonprofit: The BrightStar Wisconsin Foundation, a Milwaukee-based venture philanthropy fund established in 2013 that invests in startups around the state using donations from foundations and wealthy individuals, and pumps any returns back into the fund.

People’s Choice: Epiphany Learning, which makes online, individualized educational software. Laura Henderson, founder and CEO of the Menomonee Falls-based business, told EdTech Times its core sales are to K-12 teachers, but her team designed the system with the student at the heart.

Software (Product): Ionic, whose open-source software development kit empowers Web developers, some of whom have little or no experience building mobile apps, to do so across iOS, Android, and other operating systems using technology that’s already familiar to them. “We’ve been able to get this company off the ground, raise money, and get millions of users while being in Madison and we’re going to continue to grow here,” said Ionic co-founder and CEO Max Lynch. “It’s a great signal to the rest of the community.”

Software (Service): Eau Claire-based Applied Data Consultants, for its GPS-enabled Elite Extra dispatch toolkit that logistics firms can use to optimize route planning, track units in real time, and send updates to a driver’s phone or tablet.