Perhaps you could call it a fermentation tank instead of a "Shark Tank" owing to Pearse Lyons’ billion-dollar business built around yeast fermentation: Lyons announced Monday the formation of the Lyons’ Den Innovation Fund. This fund, personally endowed by Lyons, president and founder of Alltech, will award up to $500,000 annually to entrepreneurial projects of interest.
The fund will be open to applicants with projects that would have direct economic impact on Kentucky and Ireland and be related to the food, beverage or agriculture sectors. Winners will be determined through a series of workshops and international panel interviews. They will be selected based on the economic viability of their projects, and the amount awarded to each project chosen will be at the discretion of Lyons and the judging panel.
The Lyons’ Den Fund is a direct outcome of the Alltech Innovation Competition, which attracted six university business teams in Ireland and eight university business teams in Kentucky in this, its second year.
"Thirty-four years ago, I founded Alltech in my home with $10,000 and everything I had. Today that risk and investment has grown into a $1 billion business in 128 countries," said Lyons. "From our Innovation Competition, it is clear that curiosity and ingenuity are alive and well in Kentucky and Ireland, and now we have the opportunity through the Lyons’ Den Innovation Fund to empower people to make their ideas a reality and oil these regions’ economic engines. The bottom line of this fund is the creation of jobs."
The Alltech Innovation Competition, the parent program spawning the Lyons’ Den Innovation Fund, was initially conceived by Lyons as a means of inspiring students to innovation and entrepreneurship while contributing to solutions for the socioeconomic challenges in Eastern Kentucky.
Due to the success of that first Alltech Innovation Competition in January 2013, Lyons began a sister competition in Ireland and made both competitions an annual event. Winning ideas to date have included a plan for reclaiming mountaintops with switchgrass that could be used for fuel; a Field Buddy app that would give farmers access to GPS technology while fertilizing their fields; a personal device that would detect poisonous gasses from slurry; and a FuturFry deep fryer that would save restaurants 40 percent on annual cooking oil costs.
"If we could fund three, four, five projects per year, what kind of impact could that have on Kentucky and Ireland? How many jobs could be created? The impact could be staggering and life-changing. It’s all about asking ‘What if?’," said Lyons.
Further details on the Lyons’ Den Innovation Fund application process will be made available in June.