Jill Edwards expected an impressive response to the two major business contests run this winter by the Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Central and Northern Pennsylvania.

The executive director of BFTP/CNP‘s Venture Investment Program was not disappointed.

Fifty-six applications rolled in for the Shale Gas Innovation Contest, which offers a total of $50,000 in prizes for the most promising research in a new technology and the best new product or service. The contest was presented by the Ben Franklin Shale Gas Innovation and Commercialization Center, and co-sponsored by the Marcellus Shale Coalition, Little Pine Resources, Chesapeake Energy, First National Bank and Schlumberger.

Final judging will take place April 25.

“I was extremely impressed with the quality of the entries,” Edwards said. “We have industry experts looking at the applications to understand exactly what impact the technologies, products and services could have on the industry. They’ll be very impressed by what they see.”

Meanwhile, BFTP/CNP’s $50,000 BIG IDEA Business Plan Contest drew 65 applications – most representing the major technology sectors of Central and Northern Pennsylvania. Finalists will be chosen May 8; final judging is June 20.

“The BIG IDEA entries look very interesting,” Edwards said. “They represent a wide array of technologies clustered in our region: shale, alternative energy, medical devices, manufacturing and IT. Those are all sectors the Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Central and Northern Pennsylvania have worked with extensively. I would have expected those clusters to be represented, and they are.

“Frankly, I’m very pleased with both the number and quality of the applications.”