The University of Utah already has strengths in health, video game development and entrepreneurship, and a new competition for students at the U brings them all together. The Games4Health Challenge encourages students to develop prototypes of health-related video games and smartphone applications for a chance to win part of an estimated $50,000 in cash and in-kind prizes.

“The University of Utah is uniquely positioned to become a beacon for video games that promote health, empower patients and give physicians another powerful tool to provide personalized medicine,” says Vivian Lee, senior vice president for health sciences. “There is no university or hospital in the country with the same mix of innovation in health care, gaming and business. We expect big things from this competition.”

Teams in the competition will create an original video game or smartphone application to address a health-care need. One game already developed by students at the U teaches kids across the autism spectrum basic skills like washing their hands. Another game under clinical development at the U gives kids with cancer a sense of empowerment by letting them “battle” their illness. In addition to a working game or application, teams must provide the business model for commercialization and develop a clinical trial design for proving its effectiveness.

“Nothing like this exists anywhere,” says Christopher Wasden, director of the Sorenson Center for Discovery and Innovation at the David Eccles School of Business. “This competition will help make the U and the state a global leader in the emerging field of therapeutic video games.”

Student applications are being accepted through March 2014, and judging will take place in April. Students from all fields – including medical, nursing, health, pharmacy, physical therapy, psychology, nutrition, bioengineering and others – are invited to attend a workshop in January to learn more about the competition and application process. Additional details will be available at a later date.

The competition is being organized by the University of Utah Health Science’s Center for Medical Innovation, the Entertainment Arts & Engineering program and the Sorenson Center for Discovery and Innovation at the David Eccles School of Business. Games4Health is part of a larger effort to make the U known as a hub for health-related video game development, a small but growing industry.

Other partners involved include the Spencer S. Eccles Health Sciences Library, the S.J. Quinney College of Law and the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute.

You can register for the competition here.