UTEP President Diana Natalicio said the success of a University student startup company that won a pair of venture contests this spring, including the prestigious UT Horizon Fund Student Investment Competition, has created a culture of innovation at the campus.
President Natalicio made her comments Aug. 21 during an afternoon meeting of the Technology Transfer and Research Committee of The University of Texas System Board of Regents in Austin.
She said the wave of entrepreneurial spirit created by American Water Recycling (AWR) has given rise to unparalleled achievement across The University of Texas at El Paso, which has served as a regional small-business incubator. AWR won approximately $122,000 with a business plan for a product that can recycle water in a cost-effective, environmentally friendly way.
President Natalicio praised the AWR team – Eva Deemer, Diego Capeletti and Alex Pastor – and recognized the campus’ Center for Research Entrepreneurship and Innovative Enterprise and the Mike Loya Center for Innovation and Commerce for seeing opportunities to commercialize intellectual property developed by faculty and students.
“At UTEP we’re helping to realize the vast human potential available across our region, building a workforce with the skills, knowledge and confidence to develop the next generation of breakthroughs, to translate those breakthroughs into thriving businesses and new jobs and to effect change on a broad scale,” President Natalicio said. “In the process we are helping ensure that Texas and the United States remain global leaders in innovation.”
President Natalicio introduced Deemer, a doctoral student studying materials science and engineering, who updated the committee about the incorporated business and its patented graphene technology. Graphene is a carbon-based substance that is as thin as an atom and 200 times stronger than steel. Deemer said the team plans to enter a pilot program to test their product and that there are companies waiting to buy their product.
“There are about 30 communities in Texas that can or will run out of water this year, so there are a lot of industries out there that use a tremendous amount of water and they can’t put it back (into the ground) in that same quality as they took it,” Deemer said.
The committee members lauded the company’s accomplishments and wished them well on their commercialization.
President Natalicio said the success of Deemer, Capeletti, who earned his M.B.A. last May, and Pastor, a junior economics major, have inspired and motivated more students to inquire about investment competitions and boosted their confidence to start their own companies.