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Challenge accepted

A record 21 Northeastern alumni, representing 14 companies, have been selected as finalists in the MassChallenge 2013 Accelerator Program. Out of an applicant pool of more than 1,200 companies from 40 countries, 128 companies have been chosen to join the 2013 Class of MassChallenge Global Finalists. Northeastern is the third most represented university in this year’s class of finalists.

Founded in 2010, MassChallenge connects entrepreneurs with the resources they need to launch and succeed. Now in its fourth year, the annual global accelerator program and startup competition uses the power of competition to identify and accelerate startups by providing them with mentorships, tangible resources, and once-in-a-lifetime opportunities.

“Startups are run by the people with the inspiration, they’re the catalyst that creates all long-term value in the business chain,” explained Scott Bailey, director of partnerships at MassChallenge. “They create jobs, wealth, and opportunity. If we can accelerate the growth of those ideas, we’re creating more value for the global economy.”

After being selected as a finalist, the companies move into the MassChallenge offices, located on Boston’s Fan Pier, until the end of September. During this time, they get free office space, connections to corporations and mentors, access to VIP events, and free software, among other benefits. Following this four-month period, all 128 companies go through another round of judging, and the 26 teams with the top scores get the opportunity to present their companies in front of a panel of high-achieving entrepreneurs. At an award ceremony on Oct. 30, MassChallenge will award a total of $1 million, distributed in $50,000 and $100,000 cash grants, to the 16 highest-ranked startups.

Quad Technologies is one of the Northeastern-affiliated startups that has been selected as a MassChallenge finalist. Founded in 2012, the company aims to commercialize a unique dissolvable hydrogel that was developed by Shashi Murthy, an associate professor of chemical engineering, and PhD candidates Sean Kevlahan, Brian Plouffe, and Adam Hatch. The gel, named QuickGel, selectively binds antibodies, proteins, or cells from solution while mitigating non-specific binding. It can be removed easily and is a cost effective alternative to current technologies.

3-Spark, founded by Northeastern postdoctoral student Richard Ranky and distinguished professor of mechanical and industrial engineering Constantinos Mavroidis, is commercializing a new 3-D printing technology capable of embedding electronics directly into ABS plastic molds. 3-Spark is a spinoff from Northeastern University’s Biomedical Mechatronics Laboratory, which is directed by Mavroidis, and its products will help designers and engineers yield better prototypes during the innovation cycle’s research and development phase.

“I’m consistently impressed with the quality and passion of Northeastern entrepreneurs,” said Bailey. “The university offers tremendous support to the student entrepreneurial community and contributes mightily to the Boston startup ecosystem.”

The university dedicates abundant resources to continually expand its entrepreneurial ecosystem for students, as well as faculty and alumni. This system includes co-ops and academic programs, the Center for Entrepreneurship Education, and student-led efforts like the venture accelerator IDEA and Northeastern Entrepreneurs Club, which work in unison to provide critical resources, support, and mentoring.

The Center for Research Innovation is also a major component of Northeastern’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. Founded in 2011, CRI’s mission is to accelerate the impact of university research through commercial vehicles, particularly startups. CRI has worked closely with 3-Spark, Quad Technologies, and other ventures to provide them with financial support and other key resources.