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Rice U Business Plan Competition Focuses on Tech and Life Sciences

Graduate student teams from colleges and universities around the world will gather at Rice University shortly to vie for a million dollars in prizes to help them pursue start up ideas in technology and life sciences. Besides cash, the ultimate winner of the three-day competition will also ring the closing bell at NASDAQ in August. The Rice Business Plan Competition, now in its 11th year, is drawing entrants from as far away as Thailand and Sweden and as close as its own hallways.

The two hosts, the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship and the Jones Graduate School of Business, sifted through 500 applications to whittle down the competitor list to 42 teams from nearly as many institutions, chosen based on their executive summaries. The teams compete in six categories: life sciences, IT, energy and clean technology, green technology, renewable and recycling, and social and other. Each team will have 15 minutes to present their business plan. The top six will then vie for a grand prize worth $400,000.

The competition is intended to give collegiate entrepreneurs a chance to tune their business plans and elevator pitches to be able to generate funding for their product ideas. Judges are asked to rank the presentations based on which company they would most likely invest in.

The clean tech category is a new one this year, intended to promote business ideas for cleaner power, transportation, and water. Winners in that segment will share $100,000 from sponsor Silicon Valley venture capital kingpins Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.

According to Rice U, during the last decade of the contest, nearly a third of the contestants have launched their businesses and are still in business today.

"This 30 percent success rate is indicative of the quality of teams the competition draws," said Brad Burke, managing director of the Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship. "It is also representative of what we are finding to be an increased interest in innovation and entrepreneurship in the United States. The current economy certainly affects this as well as the willingness by the millennial generation to take risks to start their own companies. These young entrepreneurs are vital to the [country in] maintaining its technology innovation leadership and its position in the world economy."

Teams are awarded fund prizes in numerous categories; the tally of those winnings is what determines the finalists for that grand prize.

In 2010 the grand prize went to the University of Arkansas' BiologicsMD, which is commercializing a new drug to treat osteoporosis. Runners-up included Rice U's Rebellion Photonics, which is bringing to market a portable, real-time chemical detection analysis device, and LyoGo from Indiana University and Purdue University, with a device to change the way injectable drugs are stored and administered.

The Rice Alliance was formed as a strategic alliance of three schools--Engineering, Natural Sciences, and the Graduate School of Business--in collaboration with the vice provost and the Office of Research.

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