MTEC SmartZone helps two local companies earn cash at statewide business competition

REL, Inc. and LiteBrake Tech, LLC among more than 200 entrants at Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition

HOUGHTON, Michigan (December 2, 2013) – With support and entrepreneurial coaching from MTEC SmartZone, two local companies that competed in North America’s largest business plan competition mid-November in Detroit returned home winners.

REL, Inc. in Calumet earned $50,000, placing third overall in the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition. LiteBrake Tech, LLC in Hancock won $25,000 in the Masco Advanced Materials category.

Houghton-based Upland Nanotech, an early stage start-up that developed a fast-acting food pathogen detector, also impressed panel investors with its technology. Upland Nanotech and REL, Inc. were two of 10 selected finalists. “The competition provided us with an early measure of validation so we’re using this experience to drive progress in the company,” Upland Nanotech CEO Jeff Banker said. “It’s a great competition for Michigan because it brings a lot of visibility to early stage companies.”

The companies were among more than 200 entrants of Accelerate Michigan, an international competition that showcases the best and brightest new businesses to help foster their growth in Michigan.

REL, Inc. is using the funding to advance marketing of its lightweight composite motorcycle rotor technology to generate new sales. LiteBrake Tech, LLC plans to further R&D and marketing of its patent-pending steel-clad aluminum brake rotors for automotive OEM and aftermarket industry applications. Both companies credit MTEC SmartZone for generating name recognition in the industry and assisting with refining their 10-minute pitch to the judging panel of investors.

“Many of the judges and audience members were venture capital investors who don’t have a background in science and engineering, so we knew it would be challenging to present highly technical ideas in a concise manner. MTEC SmartZone helped us deliver both our technology and value proposition for our innovative products,” said REL, Inc. Vice President Adam Loukus.

LiteBrake Tech, LLC founder Scott Huang said, “Working with MTEC SmartZone leading to the competition led to an introduction to a major customer, which is going much better than we expected.”

MTEC SmartZone Program Director Jonathan Leinonen said having four local companies compete in such an elite contest speaks volumes about the economic potential of the area. “Opportunities like this demonstrate that the Upper Peninsula ecosystem is capable of producing some of the most attractive companies in Michigan,” Leinonen said. “The fact that two of the companies received funding reinforces our objective to turn our hidden gems into rock stars.”

Accelerate Michigan is a collaborative effort of the New Economy Initiative, Michigan Economic Development Corporation, Quicken Loans/Opportunity Detroit and the Business Accelerator Network of Southeast Michigan.

For more information about Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition, please visit