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Students Engage in Innovative Ventures for Emerging Technologies

NSF Award:

Innovative Ventures for Emerging Technologies in Rural North Louisiana  (Louisiana Tech University)

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The Partnerships for Innovation (PFI) award at Louisiana Tech enabled a transformation of the university's innovation and commercialization programs by engaging students and faculty in venture research on emerging technologies. Through a new course, multidisciplinary student teams study the feasibility and sustainability of new technology business ventures and develop business plans. Along the way, the students receive guidance from business and technical faculty and from the external business and investor communities. 

In one project, an entrepreneurial business student partnered with a nanosystems engineering student. Their business plan described how to commercially develop the subject of the engineering student's research:  a nano-engineered catalyst for converting syngas (a mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen gases) into biodiesel. Their business plan won a competition at Louisiana Tech and attracted the interest of local entrepreneurs, who have since licensed the nanocatalyst technology and established Avoyelles Renewable Fuels. The company has strong backing from investors and industry partners, and the students are pursuing advanced degrees in their respective fields, as well as future technology opportunities.

Louisiana Tech has initiated eight technology start-ups since the Innovative Venture Research course debuted. Course projects have led to 12 NSF Small Business Innovation Research Program awards, 15 technology licenses and options, and a new incubator filled with tech companies. The involvement of engineering and science researchers has fostered invention disclosure and patents and has led to new research directions. This level of innovation has also spurred the state of Louisiana to invest $25 million in a new research park next to the University's campus.

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