Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania has been holding funding competitions for start-ups in the medical field since 2015, called the JAZ TANK, an abbreviation for the ‘Jefferson Accelerator Zone’. The JAZ Tank award was created as “a way to foster entrepreneurship and innovation at Jefferson, the JAZ Tank was created to help members of the healthcare community develop their business ideas into tangible products that can benefit the medical field,” according to their website.

This year’s JAZ Tank competition features a unique wrinkle, one that could have an impact on a newly emerging market in Pennsylvania: The competition will be focused on the medicinal cannabis and hemp industries.

The contest is called CannaVATION, and is the first of its kind to be sponsored by a university. One grand prize winner will be rewarded $10,000 in funding, a free provisional or patent application, and free business consulting. In addition, there may be up to two runners-up that could be awarded $5,000 in funding and similar patent/ consulting services. Applications for the event officially closed on Monday August 20th, but this year’s CannaVATION competition is likely the first of many, especially since Pennsylvania’s new medical cannabis market has been experiencing some growing pains. The CannaVATION finalists will make pitches on October 3rd, 2018, in a style that is reminiscent of the popular show Shark Tank.

Judges of this year’s competition will be giving priority to innovative businesses focusing on aspects of cultivation, and that are ready to take off immediately. A focus will be placed on start-ups developing disruptive products used with grow systems, lighting, greenhouse logistics, and so on. “We want to see creative and different approaches to the industry, especially in ancillary businesses. We want businesses that have some development already in place,” said Zoe Selzer McKinley, a director at the Jefferson University’s Lambert Center for the Study of Medicinal Cannabis and Hemp.

Although this year’s CannaVATION competition is the first of its kind, this is far from the first time that Jefferson University has shown its support for medical cannabis/ hemp research. For several years now, the University has been doing its part to put the city of Philadelphia on the map as a hub for cutting-edge medical cannabis research. The University staff, its affiliates and students make up an ever-growing number of professionals in the medical industry who find the Schedule I classification of cannabis absurdly antiquated and in dire need of immediate change.