High tech INNOV8 festival kicks off Friday

The eight-day INNOV8 2013 festival that kicks off Friday will try to foster creativity and innovation in south Louisiana and maybe even attract a colony of high-tech entrepreneurs.

The event is the second INNOV8, and it is more ambitious than the first in Lafayette last year. It’s spread over parts of Lafayette: downtown at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and at the LITE complex on Cajundome Boulevard, part of ULL’s Research Park.

INNOV8 attempts to cover an array of topics: arts, culture, technology and health care, sometimes all at once.

“This is very much a long-term investment,” said Chris Allain, co-founder and co-chairman of INNOV8.

Allain said festival organizers designed INNOV8 to yield its economic benefits to Lafayette and south Louisiana in the years to come.

“I’m not sure that evaluating it this year in terms of economic impact is the most important thing to do,” Allain said. He likened it to building a brand.

There are dozens of events, including competitions for innovators seeking startup capital, according to the website innov8lafayette.com.

Also the American Association of Community Theaters Region IV, comprising productions from Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma and New Mexico, will hold its competitions, called AACTFest 2013, Friday through Monday at the Acadiana Center for the Arts in downtown Lafayette.

The Acadiana Center also will be where investors hear the pitches of people with ideas or products they think are innovative, said Pete Prados, who chairs the event called “The Vault.”

At stake is $150,000 pledged by investors, Prados said.

Allain said one of INNOV8’s sponsors, Winrock International, will start an “angel investor fund.”

Winrock is an organization that pours money and know-how into the world’s poorer populations to raise living standards, he said.

INNOV8 also rolls into Festival International de Louisiane, a five-day fete that begins next week and features bands from French-speaking nations and regions.

The scheduling wasn’t an accident, Allain said.

Allain said participants and spectators are expected from around the world who might get a taste of life in Acadiana and decide to stay.

INNOV8’s founders are trying to emulate SXSW (South by Southwest) in Austin, Texas. The 10-day SXSW fete each March gives attendees a “unique convergence of original music, independent films and emerging technologies,” according to the SXSW website.

For a calendar of this year’s INNOV8 events, go to http://www.innov8lafayette.com