Orbion Space Technology takes $500,000 top prize at Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition

HOUGHTON, MI (Nov. 21, 2017) – Houghton-based startup company Orbion Space Technology, Co-founded by Dr. Brad King and Dr. Jason Sommerville, was awarded the Grand Prize of $500,000 at the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition in Detroit last week.
The company’s satellite propulsion system targets the more than 10,000 small satellites that will be launched into orbit by commercial entities in the next seven years. Orbion’s propulsion system is capable of achieving efficiencies unmatched by anything currently available in the market. The company uses a revolutionary assembly line manufacturing technique and is the first to mass-produce satellite engines. 

In addition to being the CEO of Orbion, King is the Ron and Elaine Starr Professor of Space Systems Engineering in the Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics at Michigan Tech. 

“Orbion is honored to be chosen from the dozens of exciting new companies that participated in the competition,” said King. “Our biggest challenge right now as a space start-up is getting our product to market quickly. The award will accelerate our product development and help Orbion continue on our upward trajectory.”

The annual pitch competition invites 36 early-stage businesses with strong technologies and significant growth potential to compete for the $500K Grand Prize and total of $1 million in awards of cash and in-kind prizes.

Among the semifinalists representing the Keweenaw were Goldstrike Data, founded by MTEC SmartZone Incubator client Ashley Kern, and Novolux Biosciences, founded by Michigan Tech Professor Yoke Khin Yap. Novolux Biosciences won the Up & Coming Award, taking home $20,000.
Orbion is also a client company of the MTEC SmartZone. The Orbion team recently closed on a successful round of venture investment, totaling $1.5 million, from premier Silicon Valley and Michigan investors, but according to King MTEC was Orbion’s first investor. “While the SmartZone doesn’t provide capital funding like traditional investors, the amount of time and support spent by MTEC helping Orbion get off the ground was crucial to our early success,” said King.

MTEC SmartZone CEO Marilyn Clark said, “We’re very excited about Orbion Space Technology winning at Accelerate Michigan. The Orbion team is the total package, with expertise to deliver the product and strong connections in the marketplace. We expect great things from them.”

Accelerate Michigan is a global business competition designed to highlight Michigan as a vibrant venue for innovation and business opportunity, showcasing the best and brightest new ventures to potential investors to help foster their growth in Michigan. The competition is sponsored by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC).

27 student semifinalists from 9 universities across Michigan competed in Student Accelerate, the student division of the competition. Michigan Tech student companies FitStop, Looma, and Makerhub were selected as semifinalists, with Makerhub moving on to the finals.

The competition has been featuring top tech companies and investment opportunities for the past eight years, with companies from the Keweenaw involved almost every year. Last year, ProNav Marine won the 3rd Runner Up Award taking home $25,000. QTEK, LLC won $25,000 and Neuvokas Corp. was awarded the $10,000 People’s Choice Award at the 2015 competition. Additionally, REL, Inc. earned $50,000 and LiteBrake Tech, LLC won $25,000 in 2013.

For more information about Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition, visit http://acceleratemichigan.org/.

About: MTEC SmartZone is one of 20 SmartZones in the State of Michigan. As a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization directed by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), their mission is to accelerate high-tech business growth in the region. Since 2003, MTEC SmartZone has created over 700 high-tech jobs in the Houghton/Hancock area.