The contest was created by the WEDC this fall to recognize and promote the creative ways startups and small businesses are adapting to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Wisconsin is known for its can-do spirit and its big ideas,” said Gov. Tony Evers. “The COVID-19 pandemic has inspired businesses to find new ways … fight the virus, operate their businesses, and meet the needs of our community. After looking at these winning projects, I’m truly in awe of these folks’ ingenuity, imagination, and creativity.”

A team of 182 volunteer judges coordinated by the Wisconsin Technology Council evaluated blind entries from more than 1,226 businesses. Entries were evaluated in part on their progress to date and the potential for the innovation to move forward. The contest drew participants from across the state, including entries and judges from 70 of Wisconsin’s 72 counties, and featured a strong showing from minority-, women- and veteran-owned businesses. Top prizes went to 17 winners.

Milwaukee-based Novir LLC received the top prize for its work developing a test to rapidly detect antibodies found in people who have already contracted COVID-19. The Novir antibody test is undergoing FDA review and is expected to be cleared this month.

The Abbey Bar in De Pere was recognized for going beyond typical COVID-19 health and safety measures to offer “pay-it-forward” gift cards to customers who are encouraged to give them to front-line health workers or people hard hit by COVID-19.