The Cade Museum for Creativity and Invention’s purpose is to cultivate creativity and inventiveness. Although still in the fundraising phase of making the actual building a reality, the museum operates day-to-day programs. Over the last five years, the museum has offered the Cade Museum Prize for Innovation competition as a way to help Florida-based inventors and entrepreneurs.
This year, there were two Gainesville-based companies in the final four, Kinwa and Paracosm, but Tampa-based BioReNEW took the $50,000 prize. The company’s machine, NEWgenerator, is designed to address sanitation problems by turning sewage into clean water, energy and fertilizer.
The Cade Prize has become an incredible stepping-stone for early stage inventors, and Gainesville is without a doubt cultivating innovation that is shaping the future through events like these.
Below is a brief Q&A with Dr. Yeh the inventor of the NEWgenerator machine, who tells the story of his experience with the Cade museum and winning the 2014 Cade Prize.
Q. How was your experience with the Cade Museum Prize?
A. One word: Amazing. Going through the different rounds of selection, from submitting the application to being notified by Alexandra on the Sweet 16; to getting the phone call from Richard on the Final 4; to holding my breath and hearing Marty announcing NEWgenerator the winner: It has been an absolute thrill beyond words. Watching my student team in the audience go completely crazy with the winning announcement was priceless. For the students, who have worked with me tirelessly over the past few years to develop the technology, the public recognition was validation of the significance of their work. The entire prize experience was absolutely first rate. From the Sweet 16 reception to the Prize Night, one can tell that the Cade Museum dreams big and (is) not afraid to swing for the fence. The entire flight-themed event was imaginative and breathtaking. I am looking forward to working with the museum in a newfound partnership.
Q. Besides the cash award, what was the most beneficial aspect of participating in this?
A. The Cade Prize was a validation of the hard work and vision of our team. We have always believed in what we are doing, from the global significance to the novelty of our technology. This is what has driven my research group at USF for the last 10 years. What we weren’t sure about was whether others, especially those not in our field, would feel the same. Our technology is neither sleek nor sexy, but it speaks to the future of our planet. I think the Cade leadership and the judges really understood and supported our vision of developing and implementing a technology that can simultaneously address a number of the world’s grand challenges by safely and efficiently transforming waste into beneficial resources. We can’t do this alone. With the Cade Prize, we are now building a coalition of supporters and resources towards the vision.
Q. What would you tell someone who was considering entering the prize next year?
A. My advice is to dream big. The museum wants ideas that will be transformative and make a difference for the world. Also, regardless of the outcome, get in touch with the museum and offer to help, from educating children to demonstrating technologies to fundraising. The Cade Museum is a vision about to become a physical reality, and there is so much momentum behind it. There are opportunities for everyone, from seasoned entrepreneurs to aspiring inventors, to become involved. We need to continue to grow the creative and inventive spirits that made this country the leader that it is, and there is so much talent right here in the State of Florida.
Q. Give me two statements on your experience with the Cade Museum.
A. Working with the Cade Museum has been a very energizing and refreshing experience. The museum leadership are all visionaries. They understand what inventors need to take their ideas from lab to field to market.
Dr. James Robert Cade always believed that inventions should be used to the betterment of humanity. We feel that our NEWgenerator technology embodies a number of his ideals, and we are deeply honored to receive the 2014 Cade Museum Prize.
The Latest at Cade Museum
Phoebe Miles, the museum’s CEO and chairman of the board, says national fundraising will soon become her top priority.
“We still have a ways to go,” Miles said. “We have raised just over $3 million toward the $10 million goal for the Building Creative Connections Campaign. We are very fortunate because we have a permanent endowment that covers our current operating costs, which means we have staying power.
“But, now that we have most of the design work done and our educational pilot programs are up and running,” she said, “I can focus my attention on getting the rest of the money we need to build the building and exhibits. A large part of that involves reaching beyond our city limits and developing relationships with individual donors, companies and foundations from around the nation…
The museum is nearing the end of its design phase and preparing to enter its building phase in 2015.