More than 200 startup companies will compete in the third annual InvestMaryland Challenge, Maryland’s international business competition, the Department of Business and Economic Development (DBED) has announced.

While the majority of applicants are already located in Maryland, the challenge has drawn companies from seven other states, Washington D.C., Israel and Brazil. It will grant four top prizes of $100,000 each, and a host of secondary awards of cash, incubator memberships, professional and other services.

“Maryland is a state of innovation and discovery, of small business and entrepreneurs. The impressive group of companies that have entered InvestMaryland Challenge shows that reputation extends far beyond our borders,” said Dominick Murray, DBED secretary. “In Maryland, we are committed to supporting the entrepreneurs and small businesses that keep our economy on the cutting edge and competitive around the world. We are looking forward to working with each and every applicant and wish them all the best of luck in the challenge.”

Companies will compete in four categories: Information Technology, Defense and Security, Life Sciences, and Sustainability and Exploration. In previous years, only one category was open to companies outside the state; this year, DBED opened the entire challenge to out-of-state and international entrants. The international applicants hail from countries that recently hosted visits from Maryland elected officials, educators and business leaders.

Gov. Martin O’Malley led an economic development mission to Israel in April 2013 and during the trip, announced four high-tech Israeli startups would open offices in Maryland. Later that year, O’Malley helmed a mission to Brazil that included announcements of more than $200 million of planned investment in Maryland.

Companies will be evaluated in a series of increasingly competitive rounds by a cadre of judges from around Maryland, including successful entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, angel investors, tech and biotech experts, C-level executives and others in the state’s startup community. The winner of each category will take home a $100,000 grant from DBED, be required to establish a place of business in Maryland and spend at least half of the prize money here.

Other prizes include two incubator memberships at the Army Research Lab valued at $75,000 each, opportunities to pitch investors like NAV.VC and Camden Partners, a $10,000 grant from the Eastern Shore Entrepreneurship Center and Rural Maryland Council, $5,000 in preclinical drug development services from Noble Life Sciences, and $10,000 in consulting services from the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School. In its first year, the challenge awarded more than $425,000 in prizes. In the second, the prize total grew to nearly $1 million. DBED will continue to work with its partners and sponsors to add prizes through early 2015.

The challenge is an offshoot of InvestMaryland. Created in 2011, InvestMaryland is a public-private partnership between the state and venture capital firms. It raised $84 million to spur growth in small, high tech Maryland companies and is the largest venture capital investment initiative in Maryland’s history. Two-thirds of the $56 million funding is being managed by carefully-screened private venture firms that will invest the funds and, if successful, return 100% of the principal and 80% of the profits to the state’s general fund.

The remaining third of the InvestMaryland capital is largely allocated to direct investments by the state-run Maryland Venture Fund.