The SCALE Challenge, an open innovation contest started by the Center for Advancing Innovation (CAI) and supported by the Walton Family Foundation, will launch 20 or more companies in the supply chain and logistics sector in northwest Arkansas. SCALE stands for Supply Chain and Logistics Enterprises.
For the challenge, CAI evaluated thousands of inventions with potential transformational impact on supply chain and logistics. Inventions include technology in the areas of artificial intelligence (AI), autonomous vehicles, drones, robotics, 3D printing, machine learning, augmented reality and virtual reality. An invention selection committee comprised of industry experts and potential investors chose 20-plus de-risked inventions to advance through the SCALE Challenge.
CAI founder Rosemarie Truman said, “Through the SCALE Challenge, CAI will guide the next generation of disruptors to the galvanized Northwest Arkansas ecosystem, where they will redefine the supply chain and cement the region’s legacy as a destination for creators.”
Teams that enter the SCALE Challenge have the opportunity to create the next breakthrough supply chain company, participate in CAI training, engage with mentors, win prize money and expand their network. Teams may compete in the SCALE Challenge in three ways. First, teams may compete to commercialize selected inventions. Second, existing startups may enter the challenge with promising inventions. Finally, instead of an invention, participants may submit ideas that they believe will disrupt supply chains, transportation and logistics. CAI will work with the teams to design business models and develop business plans.
The SCALE Challenge will take advantage of the rich arts and culture in northwest Arkansas by integrating creative thinkers and artists throughout the competition.
SCALE Challenge winners will be introduced to the entrepreneurial community in northwest Arkansas, including potential partners such as Walmart, J.B. Hunt and Tyson. Northwest Arkansas, home to three Fortune 500 companies, has been ranked among the top five places to live by U.S. News and World Report for the last four years and has been in the top 30 fastest growing metro areas in the U.S. since 2015.
In addition, the winners will be recognized at an awards ceremony in Northwest Arkansas, where they will demonstrate their solutions and pitch for seed funding at an investor forum. With guidance from CAI, winners will form their start-up companies and pursue licensing and/or collaboration agreements.
Cameron Geiger, SVP at Walmart, said, “The SCALE Challenge has the potential to transform retail supply chains. The platform accelerates the introduction of breakthrough innovation that is unique to any other program. Walmart is excited to see what the SCALE Challenge will offer to help us serve our customers with even greater quality and precision, allowing us to better sense and predict in dynamic marketplaces.”
Ben Lamm, serial entrepreneur, angel investor, and member of the invention selection committee, added, “AI and other emerging technologies are transforming supply chains. The SCALE Challenge will accelerate the Artificial Intelligence Revolution and reinforce that startups in the South can compete with the best in Silicon Valley.”
The Center for Advancing Innovation (CAI) is a global public-private partnership, non-profit focused on innovation and driving growth breakthroughs. CAI’s mission is to accelerate and increase the volume of technology commercialization to ignite entrepreneurship, bolster the global economy, and maximize the potential of promising inventions.
The Walton Family Foundation, led by the children and grandchildren of its founders, Sam and Helen Walton, creates access to opportunity for people and communities. The foundation works in three areas: improving K-12 education, protecting rivers and oceans and the communities they support, and investing in Northwest Arkansas and the Arkansas-Mississippi Delta. In 2018, the foundation awarded more than $595 million in grants.