Innovators invited to apply for 2023 PA Wilds Big Idea Contest, chance to win $50,000

Innovators invited to apply for 2023 PA Wilds Big Idea Contest, chance to win $50,000


In partnership with the PA Wilds Center for Entrepreneurship, Ben Franklin Technology Partners is looking for innovators with BIG IDEAS located in Cameron, Elk, Forest, McKean, or Warren County, PA.

We’re looking for entrepreneurs who are developing or crafting a product, process, or innovation related to the maker economy, outdoors and recreation, forest products, manufacturing, and technology. If this sounds like you, please apply!

Winning up to $50,000 will go a long way in helping you further develop your BIG IDEA and infuse your new startup with much-needed cash. In addition to the cash, the pitch experience you’ll gain, the business training offered, and the contacts you’ll make are just as valuable.

Apply by 5 p.m. on Tuesday, April 18, 2023.

Winners of the 2022 PA Wilds Big Idea Contest Share Insights

The winner will receive:

  • Up to $50,000 in cash
  • A chance to win an additional $2,500 in the People’s Choice Award
  • An opportunity to pitch the business concept for a $10,000 Seed Grant from Ben Franklin
  • A guaranteed spot in a business accelerator program offered by either Ben Franklin or Penn State’s LaunchBox network
  • Business mentoring and support by Ben Franklin’s Transformation Business Services Network

You qualify to apply if: 

  • Your business is located in Cameron, Elk, Forest, McKean, or Warren County, PA.
  • You have not previously received Ben Franklin funding or a cash prize from either a BIG IDEA Contest or a TechCelerator program
  • You plan to commercialize your innovation
  • You do not have more than $1,000,000 in annual sales revenue (as an established business)

As part of a three-year initiative funded by the Appalachian Regional Commission, this is the second of three annual BIG IDEA Contests in collaboration with PA Wilds, focusing on counties in the Allegheny National Forest & Surrounds landscape of the 13-county region (Cameron, Elk, Forest, McKean and Warren Counties). The 2024 contest will accept applications from counties in the Pine Creek Valley and Dark Skies landscapes of PA Wilds (Cameron, Clinton, Lycoming, Potter and Tioga Counties). The 2022 contest focused on the I-80 Frontier landscape of the PA Wilds (Centre, Clarion, Clearfield and Jefferson Counties).

About Ben Franklin

The largest early-stage investor in the region, Ben Franklin Technology Partners/CNP, (an initiative of the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development and funded by the Ben Franklin Technology Development Authority) provides investment capital, operational assistance, BIG IDEA contests, and TechCelerator Startup Boot Camps to emerging tech-based companies and small, existing manufacturers to create and retain jobs in Pennsylvania.  Visit Ben Franklin’s website at or phone the Harrisburg office at 717-948-6339.

About PA Wilds Center

The PA Wilds Center for Entrepreneurship, Inc., is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization whose mission is to integrate conservation and economic development in a way that inspires the communities of the Pennsylvania Wilds, a 13-county region that includes the counties of Cameron, Clarion, Clearfield, Clinton, Elk, Forest, Jefferson, Lycoming, McKean, Potter, Tioga, Warren, and northern Centre. The PA Wilds Center promotes the region as a premier outdoor recreation destination as a way to diversify local economies, inspire stewardship, attract investment and improve quality of life. The PA Wilds Center’s core programs seek to help businesses leverage the PA Wilds brand and connect with new market opportunities, including: the Wilds Cooperative of PA, a network of over 375 place-based businesses and organizations; the PA Wilds Conservation Shop, a retail outlet primarily featuring products sourced from the WCO; the PA Wilds Marketplace, an online maker marketplace featuring products proudly made in the PA Wilds; and brand licensing. For more information on the PA Wilds Center, visit To learn more about the WCO, visit Explore the PA Wilds at Find PA Wilds made products at


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