Cisco, MTV tap college students for ideas

The two companies team up again to give five teams of university students grants to develop new media projects.

Cisco Systems is teaming up with MTV again to fund college entrepreneurs who might be creating the next big thing in broadband and mobile content.

Cisco is working with MTV's 24-hour college network called MTVU to launch the second year of the "Digital Incubator" program, an annual contest that selects undergraduate and graduate student groups to win a cash award aimed at helping them develop content for broadband and wireless users.

Cisco announced Monday that it had selected five winners for a $30,000 grant. This year's winners combine elements of social networking, cell phone-based gaming, online interactivity and viral videos. The programs will become part of MTVU's programming for the coming academic year.

Cisco is best known for providing the infrastructure gear that makes the Internet work. For more than a year, the company has been implementing a strategy to broaden its product portfolio. The company has been aggressively pushing into new markets that are more consumer-focused, such as video, home networking and even consumer electronics.

Late last year, it created the Media Solutions business unit, which develops and markets products to digital media content owners. The head of the group, Dan Scheinman, has said the next step for Cisco is to work more closely with the companies that are creating the movies, TV shows, music and other multimedia content that end up in consumers' homes.

The Digital Incubator program is another way for Cisco to understand and possibly influence the kinds of applications that will be developed.

"There is a massive technological disruption under way fueled by consumer demand," Scheinman said. "And we're trying to get an idea of what that next generation of entertainment will be."

While none of the 10 teams selected last year has hit it big yet, Scheinman said that seven of them are still working on developing their projects. MTV has decided to license the software from at least one of the teams from last year.

This year, Cisco changed the program slightly. Instead of providing $25,000 to 10 teams, it is offering $30,000 grants to five teams. Cisco is also selecting a grand prize winner in the fall to win a supplemental grant of up to $100,000. Winners can be found here: http://www.digitalincubator.net.

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