The MBA Technology Transfer Challenge at Mays Business School turned its first-year students into apprentice entrepreneurs for the third year running, rewarding successful plans with a total of $5,000.

The challenge, sponsored by Mays’ Center for New Ventures and Entrepreneurship, gave 70 MBA students a week to find a path to market for 15 new technologies based on Texas A&M University System research. Teams of four and five students randomly drew their technologies and had a week to prepare a pitch. More than 100 industry and expert judges gathered at Mays on Feb. 25 to evaluate student presentations in the final step of the challenge.

“Just learning how this occurs was pretty incredible,” said Bobby Williams, a joint MBA and veterinary medicine PhD candidate whose team took first place and split $3,000 after proving the marketability of roadway crash cushions. “I don’t think you could have done this anywhere else.”

The challenge is modeled after what a venture capitalist does daily. In the fast-paced business world, venture capitalists hear innovative pitches and must be able to decide quickly if new technologies are commercially viable.

During the challenge, teams of students work with researchers to understand possible applications of new technology and contact industry sources to decipher the need and potential market for their products.

Great companies with great technologies can fail if they don’t have the ability to translate science into business, said BASF Venture Capitalist Patrick Huebler, who flew in from Santa Barbara to judge the challenge. Exposing students to that lesson makes for a better-prepared class of Mays MBA graduates.

“This is the first step of what we do,” he said. “We appreciate very much that they’re already trained. Entrepreneurship and how to transform technology into product is of high value.”

Winning teams include:

  • First place, $3,000: Bryan Lee, Clay McCollor, Ellisa McCollor, Walter Stoerkel and Bobby Williams with “Box Cushion with Cut-outs and Pre-Bent Sections.”
  • Second place, $2,000: Stefanie Bertram, David Brodniak, Luke Friesen, Chase Paxton and Ralph Schickel with “Detection, Evaluation and Potential Treatments for Advanced Prostate Cancer.”
  • Third place, $1,000: Brad Cason, Joe Lightbody, Mohit Nilekani, Jason Sherry and Tina Zhou with “A novel Sialytransferase with Unique Enzymatic Activity from Drosophila Melanogaster.”