A commercial air system inspired by a shark, large-scale lithium-ion battery recycling services, and a bulk liquid dispenser for more sustainable consumption—those top three student concepts bested the competition for a pool of $10,000 on March 10 during the annual, cross-campus business idea competition now known as the Provost’s Innovation Challenge.
The competition, formerly QuackHatch, invites University of Oregon students of all majors to pitch transformative ideas for social or environmental impact, particularly in the areas of energy, global health, agriculture and food systems, equity and inclusion, literacy, and “smart” cities.
During a five-week span in January and February, undergraduate and graduate students with ventures in the sustainability, technology, and consumer-product realms worked with an assigned mentor to develop business models and pitch presentations.
The six finalists presented to judges Eric Wills of the computer and information sciences department, Kristie Gibson of the School of Law, Gary Smith of the Lane County Small Business Development Center, and Shula Jaron, vice president of business development for Nemametrix—a Eugene biotech company.
The Basking Filter, a commercial water management system inspired by biomimicry, came out on top. MBA candidate Ben Cooper and master of architecture candidate Alex Balog earned $5,000 to pursue their venture—a system that uses a self-cleaning filter based on the plankton-consuming basking shark.
Second place and $3,000 went to Tina Calvin, MBA ’19, and Mahfuzur Rahman, an MBA 2020 candidate, of Terran Material Resources, which provides commercial lithium-ion battery recycling services. Third place and $2,000 went to undergraduate entrepreneurship student Chris Cohen’s PowerFill, a bulk liquid dispenser for detergent products.
“We thank this year’s participants, judges, and mentors for the time, energy, and thoughtfulness applied during the challenge,” said Andrew Nelson, academic director for the Lundquist Center for Entrepreneurship, Randall C. Papé Chair in Entrepreneurship and Innovation, and associate vice president for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. “The innovative ideas and business concepts coming from these Ducks have the potential to impact society for years to come. The University of Oregon is proud to be a place that supports and nurtures entrepreneurial ventures and the people behind them.”
Lundquist College Communications