A record number of students entered UCSB’s annual New Venture Competition this year for a chance to pitch their original business propositions to prominent corporate representatives and venture capitalists.

With 120 participants, this year’s contest has generated the greatest number of competitors to date. The contestants will be judged in the categories of most fundable proposal, best pitch and best written plan. Last year’s winner, Corey Hoven, won over $26,000 for his project, Chariot Solar.

Organized by the university’s Technology Management Program, this is the 12th year of the competition. Mandatory sign-ups took place Jan. 11 and deadlines for business plans are ongoing. After months of marketing and financial planning, judges will narrow students down to four final teams with a semifinal evaluation on April 19 at the Engineering Sciences building. The final student teams will present their ideas to an audience of 100 to 150 people — including investors and corporate Chief Executive Officers — and answer questions from a panel of four judges on May 11 at Corwin Pavilion.

TMP Program Manager Bill Grant said the competition is designed to provide students from diverse disciplines an opportunity to collaborate on a business venture.

“If you get all these insights and you’ve met 30, 40 or 50 CEOs, you’ve essentially had 20 job interviews,” Grant said.

Every step of the way, participants are guided through seminars and mentoring sessions on topics such as marketing by experts.

“Typically, they come to me and describe their idea and they ask about their going about it — in terms of developing plans and business ideas,” George Rusznak said. Rusznak is a TMP mentor and chairman for the Santa Barbara chapter of SCORE — an association that advises entrepreneurs.

Students aren’t the only ones who benefit from the networking and funding opportunities of the program; entrepreneurs can often gain from hiring students or backing their business models.

2001 winners Alison Perry, Brenton Taylor and Byron Myers were hired by their mentor Steve Cooper — a former TMP advisory board chair — for their concept of a revolutionary portable oxygen concentrator to aid medical patients with ambulatory problems.

Cooper, a UCSB alumnus and former CEO of numerous companies, said he actively invests in business born out of the contest.

Current TMP mentor Paul Fini, who won the competition in 2005, said the venture was vital in the development of his science research-oriented company, InLustra, Inc.

He said the event provides a “formal class structure and layout” that students utilize to formulate an effective business plan.

The New Venture Competition is a subsidiary of UCSB’s acclaimed TMP program, which currently provides students with a certificate equivalent to a minor, but not a formal degree. However, the organization is now working to create a professional Master’s degree program by the 2011-2012 school year.