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Cozad and Illinois Innovation Prize winners announced

From the press release about the Cozad competition:

URBANA, Ill. – Today, the Technology Entrepreneur Center is pleased to announce the winners of the 16th annual Cozad New Venture Competition. Winners were announced at the Entrepreneurship Forum at the Illini Union, hosted by the Technology Entrepreneur Center and the College of Engineering.

This year, a total of $220,000 in cash funding and in-kind prizes were awarded to teams to advance in their ventures. Prize amounts were awarded to those teams chosen to compete for the grand prizes. Those teams chosen were Touch Light Innovations, BioWire Analytics, Reconstruct, Amber Waves Grain Sensing, ExoWear and HPT: Hindered Polyurea Technology. Corporate Sponsors, including Motorola Solutions, State Farm, AARP Foundation, and more, also awarded prizes to certain teams that focused on specific areas of innovation.

The University of Illinois is a world leader in research, innovation and leadership, and distinguishes itself by creating knowledge and preparing students for lives of impact while addressing critical societal needs through invention and entrepreneurship. Cozad New Venture Competition is designed to encourage our students to create new and unique businesses.

Awards and winners of the 2016 Cozad New Venture Competition include:

Grand prize award, Non-University Resource Track:

1st place: Amber Waves Grain Sensing ($20,000 sponsored by SalesforceIQ)

2nd place: Touch Light Innovations ($10,000)

3 place: ExoWear ($5,000)

University Resource Track Grand Prize award:

1st place: HPT: Hindered Polyurea Technology ($20,000)

2nd place: Reconstruct ($10,000)

3rd place: BioWire Analytics ($5,000)

IllinoisVENTURES Innovation Award ($10,000):

Amber Waves Grain Sensing received this funding.

Motorola Solutions Innovation Award ($6,000):

Corvae received this prize for being the team with the best startup related to Real time and Media Analytics, Personal & Remote Context, Hands Free/Eyes Up Innovations, or Citizen & Community Engagement.

State Farm Innovation Award ($6,000):

The team to receive this prize for being the best startup focused on Life Sciences/Health + Wellness, Energy/Power Management, Sensors/Beacons, Internet of Things & Big Data, or Financial Tech/Banking will be determined at a later date.

AARP Innovation Award ($5,000):

The team to receive this prize for, in the opinion of the Foundation, being the team that best addresses, with respect to low-income (earning less than $40,000) seniors (50+), one or more of the following needs: (1) the need to access adequate and nutritious food, (2) the need to live safely, independently and comfortably in functional and affordable homes, (3) the need to increase and/or maintain income, (4) the need to enjoy the positive health outcomes of strong and sustaining social bonds will be determined at a later date.

Best Energy Specific Venture Award ($5,000):

Sun Buckets, Inc. received this award for being the team with the most promising energy related startup.

Cozad Agriculture Startup Award ($2,500):

Amber Wave Grains Sensing received this award for being the best agricultural startup.

Social Innovation Award ($1,000):

Corvae received this award for having the best social purpose startup.

In-Kind Service Prizes


Reconstruct and Touch Light Innovations were awarded with storyboarding and production for a one minute demo/pitch video for each team.


Balance Better and VR MD will receive six months of [co][lab] shard office space for both teams.

EnterpriseWorks Incubator Prizes:

Nardo Technology, Reconstruct and Touch Light Innovations will receive incubation space and resources from EnterpriseWorks for 12 months, which includes student shared office and/or laboratory space and counsel from the Entrepreneurs-in-Residence that meet with student teams regularly.

I-Start Prize:

Amber Waves Grain Sensing was awarded into the I-Start program which provides 90% funding for the cost of first year legal services, accounting/financial assistance, SBIR application consulting, business plan and market research preparation, basic website development and logo design.

Illinois Business Consulting (IBC):

The team to receive a semester-long consulting project from IBC for their venture will be determined at a later date. IBC is a student consulting organization at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. They are student led and student driven. A team of student consultants will work with [TEAM HERE]’s venture to complete an agreed-upon consulting project during the 2016-2017 academic year.   Past work for Cozad teams includes the development of pricing strategies, market entry strategies, and work in the area of technology commercialization. 

iVenture Accelerator:

Amber Waves Grain Sensing, ExoWear and Therapalz will receive space for their yearlong, educational startup acceleration program. The iVenture Accelerator enables student-led startups to create economic and social value by supporting student entrepreneurs with knowledge, funding, and access to world-class University of Illinois resources and alumni. A $2,500 stipend per student fellow and up to $10,000 in seed funding per startup team will be offered to Amber Waves Grain Sensing, ExoWear and Therapalz.

Meyer Capel:

Amber Waves Grain Sensing and Cast21 will receive free legal services in the areas of incorporation, bylaws/operating agreement, initial incorporation/organization documents, drafting employment agreements, non-disclosure.  

Polsinelli Law Firm:

The team to receive a legal service that includes legal consultation and documents for entity formation, equity incentive awards, angel or VC investment, founder agreements, intellectual property rights, and vendor and licensing agreements will be determined at a later date.

Serra Ventures:

The team to receive 10 hours in free consulting services for review of business plan and/ or pitch will be determined at a later date.

Singleton Law Firm, PC:

Touch Light Innovations and BioWire Analytics will receive free legal services in the areas of corporate formation, patent, trademark, and licensing.


MyriaDrive will receive 80 hours engineering time and 40 hours fabrication.


All teams will receive a year of complimentary service of Wolfram|Alpha Pro. This gives teams immediate access to new, more personal, computational knowledge. In addition, Wolfram will also provide teams with Wolfram Development Platform. This subscription includes a year of Wolfram Desktop, tech support, 5 GB Cloud Storage, ten thousand monthly Cloud Credits, 1000 monthly API calls, and more. 


Now in its 16th year, the Cozad New Venture Competition (CNVC), offers student interested in innovation and entrepreneurship the opportunity to explore the skills necessary to succeed not only in the startup community but all facets of life. Established for V. Dale Cozad, an entrepreneur who who founded Cozad Westchester Agricultural Asset Management, which to date has received $390 million in commitments from institutional agricultural investors. In recognition of Dale’s great success, and of his long friendship with Peter Fox, Peter and his wife Kim have, through a generous endowment, established the Cozad New Venture Competition through the Technology Entrepreneur Center in the College of Engineering. These gifts, enhanced by family and friends of Dale Cozad, honor his memory, his hard work, dedication and entrepreneurial spirit.

This year, there were a record setting 120 team submissions consisting of more than 240 team members, representing 11 colleges across campus and 11 departments within the College of Engineering. I am very excited for the teams competing today and the strides the University of Illinois is making towards success in innovation and entrepreneurship. 


This day-long event allows attendees to participate in panel discussions, listen to keynote speeches by prominent members of the University of Illinois community and observe the announcement of the Cozad New Venture Competition and Illinois Innovation Prize winners. Attendees will have the opportunity to learn: How to Avoid Legal Mishaps for Startups, Forming and Growing Purpose-Led Ventures, How to Know Your Startup Idea Will Work and Why Diversity Matters in Tech (And It’s Not Why You Think). This event will take place at the Illini Union from 8 a.m. – 4 p.m, and will include presentations from keynote speakers Adam Evans, CTO of SalesforceIQ, and Ranjitha Kumar, Co-founder and Chief Scientist of Apropose and Assistant Professor in the Department of Computer Science. The Illinois Innovation Prize Ceremony will begin at 1:30 p.m. before Cozad New Venture Competition finalists will showcase their ideas and compete for prizes during the final competition at 2:15 p.m. For a complete agenda please visit:

From the press release about Illinois Innovation Prize:

URBANA, Ill. – Today, the Technology Entrepreneur Center announced Aadeel Akhtar as the winner of this year’s Illinois Innovation Prize, along with the co-runners up, Matt Alonso and Mayank Kale. This $20,000 prize is annually awarded to a student who stands out as a passionate innovator and entrepreneur, who is working with world changing technology and is seen as a role model for others.

Aadeel is a Neuroscience Ph.D. Candidate at the University of Illinois, currently enrolled in the College of Medicine. He graduated from Loyola University Chicago, Magna cum laude, with a B.S. in biology and a M.S. in computer science in 2007 and 2008, respectively. Aadeel is also the CEO and Co-founder of PSYONIC, a startup developing highly advanced, low-cost prosthetic hands – the first with sensory feedback — to those who need them around the world. PSYONIC took home the 1st place prize in the 2015 Cozad New Venture Competition before participating in the iVenture Accelerator in the summer of 2015. His passion for helping amputees comes from a trip to Pakistan in the summer of 1994 when he met a girl his age missing her right leg. The girl was using a tree branch as a crutch, and Aadeel could not understand how two people with the same ethnic background could have such vastly different qualities of life. He then made it his mission to help amputees, such as the girl he met in Pakistan as a child, improve their quality of life. 

Co-runner up, Mayank Kale, is a junior in computer science and founder of Invoq Health, a startup created in January of 2015, develops highly efficient, scalable applications and mobile technology for healthcare needs in India an Africa. The application helps front-line workers deliver better care to their community. Since India is short 5 million doctors, the developing countries are not able to scale the hospital-doctor-patient model to serve healthcare needs. The application has been deployed in 134 villages to a population of 106,000 people as of January 2016. Other than Invoq Health, Mayank is a member of the Hoeft Technology and Management Program, James Scholar and Vice Presient of National Organization for Business and Engineering.

Other co-runner up, Matt Alonso, is an Agricultural Engineering Ph.D. who has both his B.S. and M.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. He is currently working on solving a global cooking problem by developing a portable solar thermal energy storage system without fuel, fire or emissions. Currently, 3 billion people struggle to find a reliable cooking fuel and make due with animal dung and wood that is increasingly difficult to find. On top of that, 40 percent of the world’s population still relies on solid based fuels and even more alarming, 4 million people die per year due to emissions from cooking fires. While at Illinois Matthew has been a research assistant for the Institute for Sustainability, Energy and Environment; Bashir Group; Fang Group; and Newell Group. Matthew served as the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers Pre-college Conference Chair from 2013-2016, the Nissan Design Challenge Co-chair in 2014 and Technical Seminars Chair in 2012.

Each student was nominated for the Illinois Innovation Prize was selected by mentors, professors, or a faculty member on the basis of the nominees’ passion for innovation and work in technology. The University of Illinois is a world leader in research, innovation and leadership, and distinguishes itself by creating knowledge and preparing students for lives of impact while addressing critical societal needs through invention and entrepreneurship. 

“This is quite the honor, I couldn’t have imagined this in a million years that I would be at this point,” Akhtar said.


The Illinois Innovation Prize, administered by the Technology Entrepreneur Center in the College of Engineering, is awarded on an annual basis to the most innovative student on campus. This year, TEC will reward and recognize the most innovative student on campus with $20,000. This student is a passionate innovator, working with world changing technology, entrepreneurially minded, and a role model for others.

Executive Editor

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