University of Utah M.B.A. students create Navillum.

U researchers win regional Cleantech Open, advance to nationals

University of Utah (the U) startup company Navillum Nanotechnologies has done it again. The company team, led by two U researchers, was named one of the top three groups at the Rocky Mountain regional Cleantech Open last week in Denver. It was the first time in the history of the regional competition that a single team was named as a national finalist and won the sustainability award.

Earlier this year, Navillum won first place and $100,000 at the regional CU Cleantech New Venture Challenge and advanced to the National Clean Energy Business Plan Competition in Washington, D.C., where they won the People’s Choice Award. Both competitions were sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy.

The top teams from the just completed Cleantech Open regional competition will now advance to the finals at the national Cleantech Open Global Forum in San Jose on Nov. 8 and 9 to compete against other entrepreneurs from across the nation for a chance to win $250,000 of cash and prizes and the title of 2012 Top Cleantech Entrepreneur.

Navillum has developed a new method for producing semiconductor nanocrystals, which includes quantum dots. They come in many forms and have many applications, such as television displays, light bulbs and solar panels. Nanocrystals can help improve the quality and efficiency of each of these products.

The U startup is led by co-founders Jacqueline Siy-Ronquillo, a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Chemistry, and Nikko Ronquillo, M.D./Ph.D. student. Troy D’Ambrosio, director of the Lassonde Entrepreneur Center, is the team’s business advisor. Dr. Michael Bartl, associate professor in the Department of Chemistry, is the team’s scientific advisor.

“We have had an incredible year since we founded Navillum,” Jacqueline Siy-Ronquillo said. “We have already won more than $300,000 in prizes and grants, and now we have a chance to win another $250,000. All of this money will help us ramp up our production process and move our technology to the next level.”

The Cleantech Open is a nonprofit organization that fosters promising startups in clean technology fields through a nine-month program that includes education, relationship building and funding opportunities. The program encourages clean technology entrepreneurs from around the nation to compete for local recognition, and have a shot at part of the overall $1 million purse for the national winners.

This year, 52 teams of entrepreneurs entered the Rocky Mountain region of the Cleantech Open, from all six states in the region, including Arizona, Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming. In June, a panel of local judges selected 20 teams to compete as semifinalists in the region.

Each team has benefited from the Cleantech Open Accelerator program: an expert mentor to guide them through the process and provide feedback on their business plan, extensive business training, networking opportunities with investors, and focused business training at the Cleantech Open National Academy.

“The Rocky Mountain region continues to find and foster ‘cleantech’ entrepreneurs that are developing game-changing technologies and businesses,” said Richard Franklin, co-chair of the Cleantech Open Rocky Mountain region. “We are proud to be a ‘cleantech’ leader and wish our regional finalists every success as they head to the Cleantech Open Global Forum in San Jose next month.”

Here are the three top teams from the Rocky Mountain region advancing to nationals:

  • Navillum Nanotechnologies, LLC, Salt Lake City: Navillum, a chemical manufacturer, is a finalist in the Energy Efficiency category and has developed patent-pending innovative and energy efficient methods for fabricating quantum dots and other types of semiconducting nanocrystals at commercial scale. Founded in early 2012 by scientists at the University of Utah, the company was the grand prize winner of 2012 University of Colorado Cleantech Competition, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Renewable Energy Lab. www.navillum.com
  • Molon Labe Designs, Breckenridge, Colo.: Molon, a finalist in the Transportation category, has designed a new airline seat that can help airlines cut loading and unloading time in half. The firm’s innovative “slider seat” slides away from the aisle, expanding the aisle space from 19 inches to 43 inches and allowing faster boarding in adjacent rows. After boarding on each row is completed, the aisle seat is slid back into position. www.molonlabedesigns.com
  • Hydrant-Flush, Westminster, Colo.: Hydrant-Flush is a finalist in the Air, Water and Waste category. This category covers technologies that focus on improving resource availability, conservation and pollution control. The firm has developed patent pending technologies to rehabilitate water main distribution systems without excavation or disruption to landscape environments. Hydrant-Flush provides water districts with a “low risk” solution at substantial cost savings.

Selection to the finals wins the teams a “Startup in a Box” package that includes cash and donated services worth up to $20,000. In addition, Navillum Nanotechnologies won the Regional Sustainability Award, an honor given to the team that most effectively incorporated a triple-bottom-line approach to scaling its business. The winner of the Sustainability Award also won a $10,000 cash prize.

Learn more about the Cleantech Open at www.cleantechopen.org.

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