A University of Arkansas student team that formed the company Grox Industries won first place and almost $15,000 at the Stu Clark Investment Competition on March 11 at the University of Manitoba.
Grox Industries is a team of business and chemistry students working together to develop a nanomaterial-based glass coating product that improves the energy efficiency of windows. It is based on a technological innovation from the lab of UA chemistry Prof. Ryan Tian that uses custom, graphene oxide-based window coating. The product line is called Helios.
Compared to other coatings on the market, Helios absorbs more damaging ultraviolet light, while allowing more aesthetically pleasing visible light to pass through the window, according to a press release from the UA.
Grox Industries will use the prize money to research and develop manufacturing the products safely in large quantities, according to the UA.
“There are growing pressures and incentives in the glass coating industry, all of which drive consumers and glass manufacturers toward greater energy efficiency,” Grox Industries CEO Andrew Miles, an executive MBA student in the Sam M. Walton College of Business, said in the press release. “But the low-emissivity window market has not seen a functional breakthrough in 30 years. We believe Helios will change that.”
The chemical composition of the Helios coating is adjustable, allowing the company to customize the coating for varying environments, climates and altitudes.
“The low-cost, environmentally benign Helios coating can be made to be more versatile than most products in the market,” Tian said in the press release.
Other team members are Willie Evans, an undergraduate chemistry major in the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences; Witness Martin, who is pursuing a master’s degree in electrical engineering in the College of Engineering; Ting Zheng, who is pursuing a master’s in accounting in Walton College; and Stonie Hopkins, who is also enrolled in the executive MBA program.
In addition to the first-place win, Grox Industries won second place in the logo competition and third place in the elevator pitch contest.
“Bringing a new technology to the market is much more challenging than many people imagine,” Carol Reeves, associate vice provost for entrepreneurship, said in the release. Her year-long entrepreneurship course was the setting for the creation of the Grox Industries team and its work.
“With the inventor, Dr. Tian, here at the University of Arkansas, combined with an experienced and motivated team, Grox has an edge that many new companies lack, in addition to addressing a significant problem in the market,” Reeves said.
In April, the Grox team will compete at the Rice University Business Plan Competition in Houston, the world’s largest student startup competition, according to UA.
Another UA team, Surface Mod, has found success in startup competition so far this year. Surface Mod took first place in the Georgia Bowl competition.