By OnMilwaukee Staff Writers   Published Sep 15, 2011 at 2:07 PM

General Electric Co. (GE) pledged $100 million for a six-month contest to finance ideas for improving breast cancer detection.

The goal is to speed the diagnosis of breast cancer, the most common form of the disease in women, and find more-precise therapies. Breast cancer also will be the initial focus of a $1 billion GE investment over five years to develop products to locate and treat tumors.

The contest is modeled on GE's 6-year-old Ecomagination initiative, which includes a $200 million fund that has put up financing for 22 small companies and entrepreneurs working on so-called renewable technologies. As with that campaign, GE's cancer push also will award $100,000 to universities for research.

Applicants for the financing will be evaluated by a panel drawn from GE and the venture-capital firms, GE said.

The cancer initiative also includes a three-year partnership with Susan G. Komen for the Cure, a non-profit group that raises money for breast cancer research, to expand women's access to new technologies to fight the disease, GE said. Initial programs will be in Wyoming, Saudi Arabia and China.