Student entrepreneurs will get down to business today in order to battle for a cash prize in Corwin Pavilion at 3 p.m.

Sponsored by the UCSB Technology Management Program, the 11th annual New Venture Competition will allow six student teams to showcase their technological projects to the business and entrepreneurial community. A panel of business executives from various firms will judge the student competitors and award the winning team $7,500 and the title of most fundable business idea.

TMP program manager William Grant said the competition features a varied range of entries from multiple disciplines.
“We have student participants majoring in everything from music to biology and from psychology to sociology,” Grant said. “In fact, we have one of the teams from the psychology department doing a man to machine interface. The competitors come from all across the map.”

Seven squads were recently eliminated at the New Venture Fair held in April, leaving just six teams to contend for the title this year. In addition to the grand prize, contestants will battle for $4,000 and the title of Best Written Plan and Best Pitch. Office space and professional services — including legal aid and advertising tools — will also be awarded to the winning teams.

Alex Russell, a third-year mechanical engineering major and co-founder of Liquidus Technologies, said his group decided to enter the competition while in the process of creating a chemical buffering device.

“We developed a liquid dispensing technology,” Russell said. “We plan to implement this in solution preparation with, first, the development of an automated pH buffer system. We also are looking at creating an automatic titration system.”

Russell said he has high hopes for the future of the new invention.

“Our target consumers are those engaged in micro and nanoscale research — like that conducted at our university,” he said. “We plan to expand our ideas to reach biotechnology firms, pharmaceutical companies, medical testing and diagnostics and, eventually, to the military.”

Although Santa Barbara lacks a bustling network of corporations, Grant said, he noted its community support is unparalleled.

“We in Santa Barbara don’t have the 250 midsize companies like they do in, say, San Diego,” Grant said. “But what we do have are fantastic community members who come forward every year to share their experience, ideas and time to work with the students and help them foster skills for lifelong learning.”

Russell said it is precisely this guidance that has enriched his business skills and made his participation worthwhile.

“It has been an absolutely terrific experience,” Russell said. “Having the mentors there and just going through all the motions necessary to start a company was a great learning process. I mean, anyone can have a great idea, but to actually go through the numbers, the marketing logistics and the manufacturing plans was an experience.”