Engineering students win two places in the G. Steven Burrill Technology Business Plan Competition

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College of Engineering students fared well in the G. Steven Burrill Technology Business Plan Competition held April 25, garnering the runner-up and fourth-place finishes.

The Burrill business plan competition seeks to encourage entrepreneurial activity and interaction between business and science students on the UW-Madison campus. It is sponsored by the UW Technology Enterprise Cooperative, a joint effort of the School of Business, the College of Engineering and the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences.

Each team competing must have at least one student with a scientific or engineering background, and one with business expertise. Business plans ranged from simple outsourced manufactured items to sophisticated biotech business plans.

First place in the contest went to the business Virent Energy Systems, Inc., represented by Shailesh Ghimire, a second-year MBA student, and Mustapha Ould Eleya, a second-year MBA with a PhD in food science. Virent Energy Systems offers a biotech process for creating electricity using biomass products like rice hulls and whey. The business is based on biomass-to-energy research done by Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering faculty and researchers. The team won $10,000.

Second prize of $7,000 went to SonoPlot, Inc., represented by Vivek Dubey, a second-year MBA student, and Brad Larson, a PhD student in the Materials Science Program. The company has developed a system to manufacture DNA and protein microarrays.

Third prize of $4,000 went to a team of master’s students in food science who developed a business plan for yogurt-fruit product that they boasted was healthy, good tasting and had a long shelf life. Their company is called YoAm Corp. Students who presented for the company were Dan Berg, Debby Levenson, Tammy Lin and Chinthu Udayarajan.

Fourth prize of $1,000 went to a team of students who presented their concepts for manufacturing and distributing low-cost, useful items that they test market and bring to market quickly. OZ Innovations is a business developed by Anand Chhatpar, a sophomore in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Osman Ozcanli, a Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering student. Several of their products, such as a portable book carrier, are already on the market.

School of Business Professor Anne Miner, who helps oversee the Burrill contest, said she was pleased with the “terrific mixture of plans with this year.” Some drew on original student inventions including a food snack, a book-exchange plan and a carrier for papers and books, while other plans involved inventions from faculty research. “We want to keep both types of business designs in the competition, and are thrilled to see a great balance between them this year,” Miner said.

Major funding for the competition is provided by G. Steven Burrill, a 1966 graduate of the School of Business, an internationally known spokesman for the life sciences and high-tech industries.