Two local start-up companies were among six companies that won the Arizona Commerce Authority’s Spring 2012 Arizona Innovation Challenge. Both companies were awarded a $250,000 grant to use toward furthering their mission of efficiency.

Agave Semiconductor and MaxQ Technologies were chosen from more than 300 applicants.

Agave Semiconductor’s technology optimizes the energy efficiency of electric motors. Dr. Robert Brannen, the company’s CEO, says they’ll use the funds for testing to bring their first products to production.

“We were very enthused and excited to win,” Brannen said. “We know there were a lot of applicants and a lot of good companies. We were very excited not only to be a winner, but to make it as far as we did. This means a lot to us as an early-stage company to get non-equity funding is really a big boost for us.”

MaxQ Technologies manufactures coldplates used to cool power-converter systems. Their technology makes it easier for companies to convert energy from one form to another. CEO and co-founder Memo Romero said the money will be used to hire a few more key employees and purchase equipment they need to further some of their projects.

“The grant is great because it’s funding that we need that we don’t have to pay back,” Romero said. “It says that we’re for real. We’re a player in this industry. We started this company without any outside money on a shoe-string budget. We’ve been at it now for almost four years. Having won this award is a big stamp of approval by the state of Arizona that they support what we’re doing and think we’ve got what it takes to be successful and provide people in this state with good jobs.”

All applicants had to submit a three-page application at first that summarized their company. Those applications were narrowed down to 25 semifinalists who were asked to submit a 10-page application. The 10-page application narrowed the contest down to 10 finalists, who were then asked to make a pitch to a board of judges. In the end, six companies were chosen for the grants. Other winners include Cancer Prevention Pharmaceuticals from Tucson, HJ3 Composite Technologies from Tucson, Kutta Radios from Phoenix and Wholesalefund from San Francisco, Calif.

The winning companies will be required to commercialize their technology if they haven’t yet, and produce revenue within one year.

According to a statement from the Arizona Commerce Authority the Arizona Innovation Challenge, it’s the largest financial prize of its kind in the country. It advances innovation and technology commercialization opportunities in Arizona by supporting early-stage ventures in targeted industries of renewable energy and sustainability, bio and life sciences, electronics, information technologies, aerospace and defense and advanced manufacturing. A total of $3 million will be awarded to deserving start-ups in 2012. The fall 2012 Arizona Innovation Challenge will begin accepting applications on Aug. 15.

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