Economic Development Authority

2022 Innovation Challenge

Loudoun County is a unique place that has grown from a variety of diverse entrepreneurial achievements. In the eastern part of the county, an entire industry was born from internet entrepreneurs that spawned the highest concentration of data centers in the world. This infrastructure is the foundation for Loudoun County’s primary focus on technology and the basis for efforts to grow high tech entrepreneurship in the county.

The goal of the Loudoun Innovation Challenge is to promote entrepreneurship and business growth by identifying and supporting companies that are developing truly innovative products and services in Loudoun County.

The Loudoun County Economic Development Authority (EDA), in partnership with Loudoun Economic Development, has announced the dates for the 2022 Loudoun Innovation Challenge, the third-annual competition for entrepreneurs seeking to take their business to the next level.

The 2022 applications have closed. This year’s finalists will be announced the week of September 6.

Scroll down or click one of the sections below to learn more about this year’s competition:


Loudoun EDA has dedicated $150,000 in funding this year, dividing it among six total grants:


Overall Innovation Challenge Winner


Any Category

Agri-Tech Innovation


Agri-Tech – the use of technology in agriculture, horticulture, and aquaculture with the aim of improving yield, efficiency and profitability for farm managers and growers.

Examples: AI predictive analytics for climate adaptation; tackling labor shortage with robotics and automation; setting the pace for innovation in high value fruits and vegetables; regenerative ag, soil health and scaling nature-positive solutions; commercializing crop protection alternatives; sustainable sourcing  supply chain transparency; precision solutions to address nitrogen use efficiency and drought; innovation in animal health  welfare, sustainability,  farm to fork solutions

Information & Communications Technology (ICT) Innovation


Information & Communication Technology – All technologies that allow people and organizations to interact in the digital world.​

Examples: Computer hardware, software, electronics, semiconductors; the internet of things, telecom equipment, e-commerce, 5G technologies; cloud computing, robotic automation, artificial intelligence, machine learning; health tech, life sciences, medical devices, pharmaceuticals, biotechnology

Clean Energy Innovation


Clean Energy – renewable, less environmentally invasive ways of powering the global community. Some of the most common examples include solar, wind, water, geothermal, bioenergy, natural gas, and nuclear power.​

Examples: Solar powered trains, solar roof tiles; artificial photosynthesis; waste powered planes; tidal energy; carbon nanotube electricity; 3D printed solar energy trees; liquid sunlight; electric tires; lithium-glass batteries

Highly Specialized Manufacturing Innovation


Highly Specialized Manufacturing  – techniques and processes designed to improve manufacturing quality, productivity, and practices, including quality control, shop floor management, inventory management, and worker training, as well as manufacturing equipment and software.​

Examples: New procedures in additive manufacturing/3D printing; connectivity and response solutions for servos or apertures; AI-driven process improvement; streamlined production/assembly solutions

People’s Choice Award


Winner selected from the 12 finalists. Anyone can vote, even people who cannot attend the competition in person. (This is when having friends on social media can pay off. Start promoting day one, and you could win the People’s Choice Award.)


An applicant must demonstrate:

  • Problem – What is the problem your product or service is seeking to solve?
  • Solution – What is your solution to this problem and why do you believe it will be successful?
  • Team – What have you done to date to solve this problem and what qualities of your team give you a competitive edge?
  • Plan – What is your financial and strategic plan to achieve your goals? This includes a high level budget and how you will leverage program resources.


  • No purchase is necessary to enter or win.
  • Applicant must have a physical location in Loudoun County and/or demonstrate a commitment to establish future physical office location and/or jobs in Loudoun County.
  • Each Applicant must have at least one Principal who is a legal resident of the United States and at least 18 years old at the time of entry. Businesses owned, controlled or represented by members of the EDA or by employees or officers of Loudoun County are not eligible for entry.
  • All businesses entered into The Challenge must be for-profit. Non-profit businesses are not eligible.
  • Applicants must agree to be available for an in person pitch and any public announcement of The Challenge. Applicants shall authorize the EDA to utilize service marks in marketing efforts and shall participate in interviews with media at the local, state and national levels at the conclusion of the program.
  • A business is not eligible if it has more than 100 employees (employees including partners, owners, and W2 employees).
  • A business is not eligible if it has more than $8M in revenue.
  • Applicants cannot be winners or runners-up from previous years of the Loudoun Innovation Challenge.


Application Scoring

Question 1: Problem What is the problem your product or service is seeking to solve? 

Suggested content you provide 

  • Describe the problem, quantify its significance with metrics, and explain why now is the right time to solve it. 
  • Explain why existing solutions are inadequate.  
  • Show how you know this is a significant problem using evidence-based validation (e.g., interviews with users, case studies, literature).   
Judges score each statement on a 0-6 scale   

  • The competitor quantifies a critical problem using important metrics and a compelling analysis of why now is the right time to address it.  
  • The competitor’s assignment of current solutions and their limitations show a comprehensive understanding of the problem-solution space.  
  • The competitor uses real-world evidence to validate key assumptions about the industry need.   

Question 2: Solution – What is your solution to this problem and why do you believe it will be successful?  

Suggested content you provide 

  • Describe your innovation and how it is better than existing products or emerging solutions.
  • Describe your innovation’s unique value proposition and how it will lead to a sustainable business with paying customers.
  • Define the proof-of-concept you will produce, the timeline, and explain what critical failures would cause you to reconsider your approach. 
Judges score each statement on a 0-6 scale   

  • The solution represents an innovative approach built on reasonable assumptions, valid technical foundations, and lessons learned from other notable efforts in this space.
  • The competitor is pursuing an innovative and compelling solution that will lead to a sustainable business with paying customers.
  • The planned proof-of-concept timeline is reasonably ambitious and validates the critical assumptions necessary to advance. 

Question 3: Team – What have you done to date to solve this problem and what qualities of your team give you a competitive edge?

Suggested content you provide 

  • Introduce your team, explain how it came together, and highlight the knowledge and skills that make it uniquely capable of achieving success.
  • Highlight your team’s experience in trying new things, solving difficult problems, and overcoming barriers to bring ideas to reality.
  • Describe what drives your team to realize this solution and why you will continue when facing difficulties.
  • Explain why winning the Loudoun Innovation Challenge Contest will substantively change the likely outcome for the proposed solution.
  • Describe your efforts to advance your solution concept since the announcement of the Loudoun Innovation Challenge Contest or prior and highlight key milestones achieved. 
Judges score each statement on a 0-6 scale   

  • The team’s track record demonstrates notable entrepreneurial qualities such as adaptability, creativity, decisiveness, and resourcefulness.
  • The team’s drive, knowledge, and complementary skillsets provide a strong competitive edge towards realizing this solution in the near future.
  • The Loudoun Innovation Challenge Contest will significantly increase the team’s chances of creating or growing a viable business based on this solution.
  • A considerable amount of high-quality effort was put into defining and advancing the proposed solution.
  • This team has the knowledge, experience, and determination to transform their proposed solution into a viable business. 

Question 4: Plan – What is your financial and strategic plan to achieve your goals? This includes a high level budget and how you will leverage program resources.

Suggested content you provide 

  • Describe where you stand in your solution’s development cycle and define your goals.
  • Describe your team’s readiness to meet your goals and if additional talent and resources are needed.
  • Provide a high-level budget and plan to meet your goals by the conclusion of the Loudoun Innovation Challenge. Include how you will leverage program resources. 
Judges score each statement on a 0-6 scale   

  • The stated goals are ambitious, reduce risks and show a commitment to an accelerated development cycle.
  • Meeting the stated goals will demonstrate critical progress towards developing, testing, and validating the functionality and market demand of this innovation.
  • The proposed plan effectively uses resources available in this program to advance the innovation.
  • This innovation, team, and plan should be strongly considered for a Loudoun Innovation Challenge Prize (score only a 0 or a 6). 

You will be required to upload a 2-minute video pitch to continue the application review process for your business. Your application will not be considered complete without the video pitch. Please review the application criteria (listed in the main portal and downloadable below) and ensure your video pitch addresses the criteria. Include your publicly accessible video link here (e.g. YouTube, Vimeo, etc.). Be creative and produce a video that conveys the required information in exciting and interesting ways but do not focus on time consuming activities that only improve production values (i.e. technical elements such as décor, lighting, and cinematic techniques). Assistance from others with experience in this area may be helpful. The Loudoun Small Business Development Center can help you with creating your video.  

Suggested content you provide 

  • The real-world problem you are solving.
  • Your solution and why it’s transformational.
  • Who you are and why you have a competitive edge.
  • The innovation will create new jobs and/or will result in an increase in Total SF of leased new office space in Loudoun County. 
Judges score each statement on a 0-6 scale   

  • The video explains a compelling real-world problem.
  • The video describes a unique innovation that is implementable within the next five years.
  • The video shows a knowledgeable and skillful team.
  • The Innovation will create new jobs in Loudoun County at or above the targeted medium income level ($68,031)
  • The Innovation will result in an increase in Total SF of new physical office space leased and/or committed within 6 months of receiving the grant


#LoudounPossible Stories

Hear from previous winners of the Loudoun Innovation Challenge and other members of our entreprenerial ecosystem.


Meet Last Year’s Finalists

Get to know the winners of the 2021 Loudoun Innovation Challenge.

2021 Finalists

SuperPitch Training Series

Loudoun SBDC is offering a free series to perfect your pitch. Sign up for one session or all four!

Register Now

Practice Your Pitch at 1 Million Cups

Register to practice your live pitch or presentation on Wednesdays this summer.

Apply to Present

Looking to Relocate?

Loudoun’s vibrant mix of co-working spaces, incubators and creator spaces provides the right location and tools to grow.

Find Office space



July 28: Loudoun Innovation Challenge application submission deadline.

June-July: SBDC offers Super Pitch class to prep for application submission (one class per week) and offer one-on-one assistance. 

Week of September 6: The top 12 finalists are announced through a press release and finalists notified.

September 23: Tech check rehearsal for the live in-person pitch event. We will coordinate a block of time closer to the pitch date.

September 24:  Live in-person pitch event from 9 a.m.- 12 p.m.

October 1: Award announcement at Loudoun United game during half-time. 

Week of October 1: Press release announcing the winners.

Week of October 17: Begin award and payment process.

danelle hayer small business entrepreneurship manager loudoun county

Contact Us

We look forward to working with you and building towards a bright, #LoudounPossible future.

Danelle Hayer

Small Business and Entrepreneurship Manager

Terms and Conditions

All applicants must agree to the statements below and all requirements as published or provided by the Innovation Challenge and the Loudoun County Economic Development Authority

  • All materials submitted to The Innovation Challenge will be treated as public records and subject to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) rules and regulations. If you have questions or concerns about this requirement, please contact the Department of Economic Development at 1-800-LOUDOUN before submitting your application.
  • An application for The Innovation Challenge constitutes an unconditional agreement to and acceptance of the Terms and Conditions. The Applicant is responsible for ensuring his or her familiarity with the Terms and Conditions.
  • By submitting an application, the Applicant certifies that it is not under any agreement or restriction that prohibits or restricts its ability to disclose or submit the materials included in the application or otherwise to apply for The Innovation Challenge.
  • Applicant grants Loudoun County and the Loudoun County Economic Development Authority permission to display, publish, distribute, use, modify, print and reprint any images, marks or video content in any manner related to the Innovation Challenge or the work of Loudoun County and the Loudoun County Economic Development Authority including without limitation, publications, advertisements, brochures, web site, videos, digital media, or other electronic displays and transmissions. Applicant further waives any right to inspect or approve the use of the image prior to its use. Applicant forever releases and holds Loudoun County and the Loudoun County Economic Development Authority harmless from any and all liability arising out of the use of the images in any manner or media whatsoever, and waives any and all claims and causes of action relating to use of the images, including without limitation, claims for invasion of privacy rights or publicity.
  • To the fullest extent permitted by law, by submitting an application for the Innovation Challenge, the Applicant voluntarily releases the EDA and Loudoun County from any and all claims, actions, damages, costs or liabilities of any kind relating to or arising from or in connection with the Innovation Challenge, including but not limited to the awarding, advertising, receipt, and/or use or misuse of award funds or participation in any activities related to the Innovation Challenge.