Campus Innovators Recognized through UA Faculty and Staff Business Pitch Competition  

Faculty presenting

University of Alabama students have a well-deserved reputation for discovery, innovation, and entrepreneurialism. The proof is in the myriad of companies established by both alumni and current students of the Capstone. Of course, it should be no surprise that the very faculty and staff that work at UA should possess the same traits.

The Edward K. Aldag Jr. Business Plan Competition, presented by the Alabama Entrepreneurship Institute, or AEI, has traditionally focused on growing the culture of innovation and entrepreneurship among UA students. This year it distributed over $100,000 in cash and in-kind prizes, including a $50,000 grand prize to PrepHQ in a competition held virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic.

All new for 2020 was a distinct innovation-focused pitch competition for UA faculty and staff that was to be run concurrently with the student competition. A total of 15 contestants presented their business ideas during the competition.

UA’s Office for Research and Economic Development provided $10,000 for the faculty/staff competition. Furthermore, the Alabama Power Foundation sponsored an additional $10,000 grand prize for the most innovative technology-focused idea. All winners will also get in-kind business planning assistance courtesy of the AEI and in addition to support for the advancement of their ideas with access to analytical and prototype development equipment at EDGE Labs.

The Winners of the 2020 Faculty/Staff Innovation Pitch Competition

Alabama Power Foundation Grand Prize

$10,000 – Upcycling of Waste Plastics
Jason Bara – Associate Professor, College of Engineering

First Prize

$5,000 – Low-cost Water Sensors
Silvana Croope – Resilience Research Engineer, Alabama Transportation Policy Research Center

Second Prize

$3,000 – Foresense Solutions
Adam Hauser – Assistant Professor, College of Arts & Sciences

Third Prize

$2,000 – Low-cost Strength Enhancer for Concrete
Jialai Wang – Professor, College of Engineering

“I am very pleased with the level of participation and the quality of ideas presented in this inaugural competition.”, said Dan Blakley, associate vice president for economic and business engagement, in UA’s Office for Research and Economic Development. “This event showcased the winning combination of great ideas and innovative energy that is present amongst our faculty and staff. The success of this event was enhanced through partnerships across campus and with industry.”

Dr. Theresa M. Welbourne, executive director, AEI, said, “I am extraordinarily grateful for the generous support of our partners and the hard work from everyone to make this event happen.”

“We heard some incredibly promising ideas that, with some support either in the form of funding or assistance, would move the ideas to commercialization.”

Special thanks to the Alabama Power Foundation for providing resources that made this a meaningful event to the participants. The Foundation’s support was made possible by a generous gift from the Foundation in May 2019 to UA’s Office for Research and Economic Development to support economic and workforce development.

More info about the Alabama Entrepreneurship Institute and its work supporting innovation both on campus and in the community at

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