Innov8 organizers looking at ways to improve event

Organizers of the third annual Innov8 Lafayette were gathering notes taken Thursday during the just-ended eight-day event, getting ready for future debates on how to draw more people to the fledgling festival that’s trying to find its own legs and direction.

Innov8 Co-Chairman Chris Allain said organizers and attendees were happy with the quality of the 2014 events, such as the computer coding competition, a crowd-funding contest for inventors young and old, and a presentation from a highly acclaimed author on ideas that changed the world.

Allain said this year’s attendee tally has not been completed, but it could be slightly fewer than last year’s draw of just under 3,600. He said the 2014 Innov8 did not have the family friendly Eye-Opener event, which in past years featured tours of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s Research Park.

Allain said officials at the Louisiana Immersive Technology Enterprise Center, which is part of Research Park, had scheduling conflicts this year.

A new addition in 2014, the Innov8 Keynote and Awards luncheon, which featured best-selling author Steven Berlin Johnson, drew at least 500 and partially offset the loss from not having Eye-Opener, Allain said.

“We may not be off too much,” Allain said.

Allain and the other Innov8 co-chairman, Pete Prados, now want to figure out how to draw more people next year.

Prados and Allain said the quality was top-notch at events such as Launch Hour — Makers and Manufacturers, but it was underattended.

“I just wanted to call people and say, ‘Why aren’t you here?’ ” Prados said.

Allain said the spectators and local inventors and manufacturers who took part in Launch Hour on Wednesday were happy with it.

“The folks who were on that stage, the quality of their presentations, the relevance of what they had to say, it was so apparent to the people in the audience,” Allain said.

Prados, who oversaw a popular Innov8 feature called The Vault, said this year’s event was changed to allow “crowd-funding,” where audience members decide which business or product pitched by the inventor will get funded. Attendees paid $10 apiece to get in and were given a $10 chip to award to their choices.

There also was an inventors competition among five UL-Lafayette students. Jarrod Dufour won $1,000 for his Love Handles, thermoplastic bike grips that can be molded to fit the user’s hand.

Allain and Prados acknowledged that Innov8 Lafayette is a work in progress, though it’s gathering steam.

Allain said he was heartened to read that James Peake, an executive with computer technology company CGI, mentioned Innov8 Lafayette during a news conference announcing CGI’s plans to open a technology center in Research Park. At the announcement, Peake said cultural events such as Innov8 and Festival International de Louisiane were among the draws that enticed the international company to Lafayette.

Allain and Prados also said there will be an upcoming debate on whether to “decouple” Innov8 from Festival International.

In its three years, Innov8 has latched onto the coattails of the 28-year-old Festival International, scheduling its events simultaneously and trying to draw in some of the mighty international festival’s estimated 400,000 visitors.

Allain said Festival International officials have told Innov8 organizers to “go forth and prosper,” doing what they think is best.