Future-changing innovations in biotech and housing tech take top prizes at MIT $100K

“The MIT $100K aims to bring MIT technologies to the world, all parts of the world,”
- Karina Drees, MBA '07, lead organizer, MIT $100K

Among a rich variety of medical, transportation, and architectural innovations, two life-changing inventions took top prizes at the 2006 MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Competition during a ceremony held at Kresge Auditorium on May 18.

The startup SteriCoat won the MIT Business Venture Robert P. Goldberg Grand Prize for a revolutionary antibacterial coating that significantly reduces the incidence of infection in patients using catheters.

SteriCoat's application technology prevents the formation of bacterial biofilms and kills bacterial invaders. It can coat devices of virtually any size, shape, or material, significantly minimizing infections and the expense associated with treating them.

The MIT Social Impact Prize was awarded to CentroMigrante Inc., which integrates architectural innovations and a versatile self-help business model to provide clean, safe, affordable housing for indigent job hunters in developing urban areas.

CentroMigrante is responding to the millions of impoverished people in developing countries who leave their rural hometowns for urban areas in search of employment. Unable to afford decent lodging, they often end up homeless or living in shanties.

MIT $50K grows up

This year marks the evolution of the MIT $50K into the MIT $100K. In addition to the traditional $30K Business Venture Prize, which goes to a pioneering high technology project, the $30K Social Impact Prize, new this year, recognizes the business plan that best serves low-income communities.

“The need for the new development prize became increasingly apparent when we looked at the research on campus that targets the developing world,” says lead organizer Karina Drees, MBA '07. “We also saw a steady increase in the number of social and global business ideas in our fall warm-up competition. The MIT $100K aims to help bring MIT technologies to the world — all parts of the world.”

The two runners up in each category took home $10,000 in seed money. Business Venture runner up Avanti Metal Company has devised an economical, environmentally sound process for producing titanium.

Terrafugia, the other runner up in this category, aims to spark the next transportation revolution with a “personal air vehicle” (PAV). The multifunctional “Transition” reportedly can drive on any road surface, take to the air from most local airports, and park in a household garage. Terrafugia has designed the Transition to be the most economical form of transportation for trips between 100 and 500 miles.

In the Social Impact category, runner up Kalpataru, plans to market to the developing world a $100 laptop bundled with a suite of microfinance software and services.

The other runner up in this category, OneWorld Medical Devices, is introducing a “Vaccine Pac” to help reduce the 4.3 million vaccine-preventable deaths each year that occur primarily in developing countries and during natural disasters or epidemics.

Portable and self-contained, with a strict temperature-controlled transport and storage unit, the Vaccine Pac has already gained the attention of the Program for Appropriate Technologies in Health (PATH), which intends to promote the Vaccine Pac to United Nations agencies, NGOs, and aid organizations.

Economic baromoter

More than 164 teams entered the 2006 competition, the largest number of entries “since the peak of the dot-com bubble,” notes Lawrence Walmsley, another MIT $100K organizer. Fifty-five of those teams competed for the Social Impact Prize.

The distinctive strength of the MIT $100K is the interdisciplinary alchemy resulting from the collaboration of student innovators from the realms of business, engineering, and science.

The world's preeminent business plan competition, it has become an economic barometer of what new ideas are being funded by venture capitalists. Since its launch in 1989, the contest has generated more than 85 companies with a combined valuation in excess of $7 billion.

A member of SteriCoat, which won the MIT Business Venture Robert P. Goldberg Grand Prize, presents at the $100K final awards ceremony a case for funding the company's revolutionary antibacterial coating.

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