Cummins to host ‘Shark Tank’-inspired pitch competition

Cummins, Inc. is inviting entrepreneurs and suppliers to competitively pitch product ideas to help the company reach its diversity and environmental sustainability goals.

The competition, called Innovation Gateway, seeks new ideas that could lower Cummins’ carbon footprint in the areas of materials management, packaging, manufacturing efficiency, the capture and recovery energy and water, as well as controls and systems that reduce energy use, said Priscila Mendes, Cummins indirect purchasing leader.

Mendes said the competition is, in part, inspired by the reality TV show “Shark Tank,” which gives aspiring entrepreneurs the opportunity to pitch business ideas to a panel of potential investors.

Finalists will be invited to pitch their ideas in person on April 8 in front of panel of seven judges at The Commons in downtown Columbus. The pitch sessions are not open to the public.

“We are trying to power environmental innovation through diversity,” Mendes said. “We are trying to create channels with diverse suppliers and solve our sustainability goals.”

One of Cummins’ “major targets” is to increase the number of diverse suppliers — particularly companies owned by minorities, women and veterans — who can work with Cummins to reach its environmental sustainability goals, Mendes said.

Cummins’ environmental sustainability goals include cutting direct water use in half, increasing the company’s recycling rate to 95 percent, among other objectives, by next year, according to the company’s 2017 sustainability progress report.

Successful pitches will be tried out at Cummins facilities and could result in a company becoming a Cummins’ supplier.

As of Thursday, Cummins had received around 40 written pitches from companies in 14 U.S. states, as well as Canada, Switzerland, Sweden and Germany, according to Cummins officials. The deadline to enter the competition was March 22.

Last year, Cummins held a similar competition in the United Kingdom. The company received 80 proposals, 26 of which were invited to make their pitches in person and 12 were selected for trial, said Jordan Anderson, a Cummins communications manager.

One of the winning ideas last year was submitted by London-based Savortex, who pitched an energy-efficient hand dryer that can completely dry a person’s hands in 11 seconds, Mendes said. Cummins is now using it at some of its facilities in Australia.

The panel of judges for the North America competition will feature leaders from purchasing, environmental strategy, growth and diversity procurement at Cummins, as well as a panelist from Purdue University and the U.S. Department of Energy.

“This (competition) would give small suppliers the chance to pitch innovations to many leaders in our company,” Mendes said.

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By 2020, Cummins, Inc. seeks to:

  • Cut direct water use by 50 percent.
  • Increase its recycling rate to 95 percent.
  • Reduce energy intensity by 32 percent.
  • Become water neutral at 15 manufacturing, technical and other facilities in areas where water is scarce.
  • Achieve "zero disposal" status at 30 facilities with at least 100 people, meaning that the facilities would recycle all of their waste.

— Source: Cummins, Inc.