Undergraduate Students Win $50K for Technology Commercialization Startup
Five undergraduate students from the C. T. Bauer College of Business recently won $50,000 and first place for their clean energy startup at a U.S. Department of Energy business plan competition.
The student team from Bauer College’s Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship earned the top spot at the First Look West (FLOW) Business Plan Competition, a consortium through the U.S. DOE that partners with the California Institute of Technology, University of Southern California and the University of California, Los Angeles.
Undergraduate students Arsheen Memon, Kiran Meghani, Rishabh Jain, Bryan Martinez and Emmit Schultz competed against graduate students from schools including Stanford University, Carnegie Mellon University and the University of California, Berkeley.
Together, the students have launched startup Vescense, which focuses on commercializing a nanocoating technology to reduce the buildup of water film and contaminants on solar panel surfaces. The product was developed by T. Randall Lee, the Cullen Distinguished University Chair and Associate Dean for Research at the University of Houston’s College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics.
The Bauer student team worked closely with Lee to understand the business implications of the technology, Martinez said.
“When solar panels are in the environment sand and dirt particles cause other coatings to wash off,” he added. “But our technology attaches using multiple contact points, so it’s longer lasting and better absorbs sunlight.”
This is the third business competition win for Vescense, who previously won the Houston Maker Fair and UH business plan competitions. In addition to the $50,000 cash prize from FLOW, the team also automatically advanced as finalists in the DOE’s National Clean Energy Business Plan Competition.
Wolff Center students have the opportunity each year to work with researchers on campus through a partnership with the UH Division of Research, developing commercialization plans for research generated at the university. In the past five years, WCE student teams have won more than 30 podium placements in national business plan competitions and more than $300,000 to fund their ventures in the past three years.
“There’s no other university out there that gives undergraduate students access to patented technologies,” Jain said. “The fact that we’ve been given the chance to work with a patented technology that’s been tested so we know it works is an amazing opportunity.”
By Priscilla Aceves