CAMBRIDGE, Mass., October 30, 2009 — President Obama commended MIT for its “extraordinary energy research” and urged the United States to take a leadership position in this arena during a speech on the Institute’s campus last week. But how exactly does cutting-edge research move into the marketplace?
It starts with an elevator pitch to venture capitalists.
Last night, a panel of venture capitalists and industry specialists named Nanoengineered Concrete, an entry in the Energy category, the winner of the 2009 MIT Elevator Pitch Contest. This three-year-old contest, which is open to MIT students from across its five schools, neighboring colleges, and Boston-area entrepreneurs, allows competing teams 60 seconds to deliver a persuasive elevator pitch to the panel of judges.
“Concrete is the most widely used, manufactured material in the world. Problematically, it contributes to more than 10% of carbon dioxide emissions worldwide,” said Rouzbeh Shahsavari, a PhD student from the MIT School of Engineering and the founder of the winning team, Nanoengineered Concrete. “Developing a nanostructured concrete not only has the potential of reducing carbon dioxide emissions but can also be tuned to be much stronger than conventional concrete."
Nanoengineered Concrete beat out 354 competitors over the three-day long contest, and had emerged as one of twelve finalists representing six different categories. These included energy, which was sponsored by Raytheon; high-tech; life sciences; mobile technology; products and services; and social development.
The two runner-ups were Life Sciences and Products and Services offerings. Team Calinix provides novel drug screening solutions, and the second team, Apex by Hydrangle Systems, is a novel biomedical device that maintains patient potency while they undergo prostate cancer cryoablation treatment.
“We were blown away by the quality of the pitches across the board,” said judge Tim Rowe, founder and managing director of the Cambridge Innovation Center and a venture partner at New Atlantic Ventures. “This is an extremely creative group and they each made a very compelling case." When asked if he thought Nanoengineered Concrete has a chance of getting funded, he said, “I was just speaking to them about exactly that.”
Said Shahsavari, “Compared to other advanced multi-purpose materials, cement and concrete have been left behind and are often treated at the lower end of cutting-edge materials. However, there is an urgent worldwide need that motivates me to bring concrete to the forefront of nanoengineered sustainable materials. This will lead to sustainable infrastructure developments on a large scale far beyond north America.”
Nanoengineered Concrete won $5,000 in seed money while the runner-ups will bring home $2,000 a piece. Nanoengineered Concrete’s winning status also makes it a strong contender for this spring’s MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Competition and MIT Clean Energy Entrepreneurship Prize of $200,000, which is a collaboration between MIT, NSTAR, and the United States Department of Energy.
Last year’s winner, Waleem Daher, went on to win the MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Competition. Most recently, the Wall Street Journal awarded his start-up, K-Splice, a 2009 Technology Innovation Award.