If you’re worried about the state of innovation in the Minnesota medical device community, you only need to look to the MN Cup competition to be reassured. I was privileged to be one of about 20 judges in the Life Science/Health IT division of the MN Cup this year and was struck by the number of competitors who had all the right stuff. The division winner was StemoniX, with a technology that produces industrial quantities of human organ cells for smarter and faster drug screening. Stemonix also claimed the MN Cup Grand Prize last week. The runner-up for the division was Zift Medical, developing a device for cheaper and less invasive facial plastic surgery. Third place went to Geneticure, which has a system to choose the blood pressure medication that is best for a patient based on the patient’s genetic makeup. All three of these companies deserved their top-three finish.

What might get lost in the hype is recognition for other fantastic competitors whose only problem was being part of such a large group of talent. Kudos to MetaLogics, which developed a device-based weight loss system that has solid science to back it up, a rarity in the crowded calorie- and step-counting market. I like science; it’s a good way to separate the wheat from the chaff. Welltwigs combines Bluetooth-enabled, home-based hormone testing with a mobile app for fertility tracking as accurate as an ultrasound (more science!).

Opportunities that satisfy the classic business school principles of market need, potential profit and an exit strategy are great, but there is something special about ideas that have an extraordinary impact on a child’s quality of life. Protosthetics uses 3D printing and myoelectric technology to make affordable, custom-designed artificial limbs that can easily be switched out for a child amputee as he or she grows. For children with neuromuscular disorders who don’t have enough strength to lift their arms, Magic Arms uses 3D printing to make a simple and elegant system to help these kids do things that we all take for granted. Something special, indeed.

These are just a few examples of the amazing Minnesota med-tech start-ups that entered this year’s MN Cup. While it’s a real competition where only a few will walk away with any prize money, I believe it provides an impactful experience that helps all competitors to do better. Once again, the MN Cup successfully proved that innovation is alive and well in the North Star State.