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Students from Kellogg and McCormick took home the top prize at this year's Rice Business Plan Competition.

Rice Business Plan

Building better batteries

Kellogg and Northwestern students win Rice Business Plan Competition for tech startup


4/19/2013 - The rapidly dwindling, slow-charging cell phone battery may soon be a thing of the past.

A team of Kellogg and Northwestern students is developing technology for lithium-ion batteries that could last 10 times longer and charge 10 times faster. Their innovative work — which began in an NUvention course at Northwestern and continues at their tech startup, SiNode — earned the grand prize at this year’s Rice Business Plan Competition. The prize combined grants from several contributing organizations, including the U.S. Department of Energy, for a grand total of $911,400.

The value of the interdisciplinary team
“The NUvention course helped us in a number of ways,” says Samir Mayekar ’13, one of the Kellogg students representing SiNode at the competition. “First, it provided a forum for students from business, law and engineering to collaborate. The value of this interdisciplinary team cannot be understated, as the McCormick students educated the team on battery technology, the Kellogg students guided the team on commercializing that technology, and the Northwestern Law students assisted with incorporating the company and protecting its intellectual property.”

The competition brought teams from 42 top universities around the world to the Rice University campus in Houston earlier this week. Team members Cary Hayner and Joshua Lau — both students at Northwestern’s Robert R. McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Sciences — joined Mayekar in presenting SiNode’s business plan to the judges.

Plans to expand
Back in Evanston, the SiNode team also includes Kellogg students Nishit Metha and Guy Peterson (both ’13), was awarded the top prize in Energy Efficiency at the 2012 Cleantech Open Global Forum in November. The team has received huge votes of confidence in accolades and prize money, but the real work of integrating new technology into a scalable business is just beginning.

According to Mayekar, SiNode has recently moved operations into a new lab in Evanston and has plans to expand in the next few months. He says the group’s experience with NUvention has been extremely valuable, and would strongly recommend the course to current and future students.

“The NUvention course represents Northwestern's competitive advantage as an institution,” he says. “It is one of the only schools nationally to offer world-class business, engineering, and law programs.”

Related:
  • NUvention turns Northwestern students — in business, engineering, law and medicine —into ‘future innovators’