A smart phone designed for the visually impaired, a vehicle navigation system that collects data for salespeople, and a shower with a pause button are among the New Product Innovation Competition finalists, as Suffolk University’s leading innovators take a step closer to $50,000 in cash and prizes.

Out of 326 entries, 24 finalists have advanced in the Sawyer Business School’s fifth annual New Product Innovation Competition. Winners will be named Sept. 30.

Encouraging innovation & entrepreneurship

The $50,000 in cash and services will help the winners bring their ideas to market.

The annual competition for Suffolk University students and alumni has grown since it was launched in 2006 with 27 Sawyer Business School alumni and student entries and $5,000 in prize money. This year’s competition includes the entire Suffolk University community – the Sawyer Business School, College of Arts and Sciences, and Law School.

The competition reflects the Sawyer Business School’s emphasis on innovation. It fosters the development of leadership skills and the ability to communicate a compelling vision and execute it.

Several winners from previous competitions are now developing their products for market.

“Through our curriculum and various events, such as the New Product Innovation Competition, we’re providing people with new ways of thinking and innovative new approaches to product development and services,” said Sawyer Business School Executive-in-Residence Sushil Bhatia, who originated the competition.

Bhatia, a renowned innovator, entrepreneur, inventor, author and professor, said that this year’s competition generated a number of unique products that captured the interest and imagination of the 60 judges.

Specialized vehicle navigation

They include a vehicle navigation system for salespeople that stores a client’s contact information, meeting locations and other data that can help land a sale.

One innovator submitted an idea for digital funeral template software that allows a user to celebrate the life of the dearly departed by downloading images, prayers, poems and other remembrances, and then printing the template in full color.

Green and clean

Many of this year’s entries were green in nature, including an online receipt system that eliminates the need for paper; eco-friendly wallpaper; and a shower that has a button that pauses the water flow, but keeps it at the same temperature when the flow is turned back on.

“As in past years, we have some entries in this year’s competition that are truly outstanding,” said Bhatia. “As we have seen, if you allow people to unleash creativity, the sky is the limit.”

Jules Pieri, founder and CEO of the online marketplace Daily Gromme, was the keynote speaker at a March 4 event during which finalists were named. The Daily Gromme is her third startup company; she previously was with Design Continuum, an innovation consulting firm, and Ziggs.com, an online branding resource. Pieri began her career as an industrial designer for technology companies and served as a senior executive for brands such as Keds, Stride Rite and Playskool.