Public Administration and Urban Studies and Polymer engineering students honored for innovation, entrepreneurial spirit


UA students and collaborators win 2011 Launchtown Entrepreneurship Award are, from left, Maurice Wadley, Hendrik Heinz, Kshitij C Jha, Balaka Barkakaty, Chaitanya Pratiwada and back, Al Neighorn.

University of Akron-based technology startup company Biena Tech won the 2011 LaunchTownTM entrepreneurship competition. Biena Tech was represented by UA polymer engineering students Maurice Wadley, Chaitanya Pratiwada and Kshitij C. Jha, who serves as company CEO; UA post-doc Balaka Barkakaty; and public affairs doctoral student Al Neighorn.

Hendrik Heinz, UA assistant professor of polymer engineering, and Bruce Terry, Case Western Reserve University retired CEO-in-residence and industry liaison in the Science and Technology Entrepreneurship Program (STEP), mentored the students.

Best ideas rewarded

Established in 2006, LaunchTownTM Entrepreneurship Awards is a best-ideas competition based on students' presentations of business plans for innovative technology startup companies. UA competed against 15 other student teams, including those from Youngstown State University, Cleveland State University and Kent State. Winner Biena Tech received a prize of $10,000, which was donated by the Burton D. Morgan Foundation, and an additional $20,000 in professional services through the Akron Global Business Accelerator.

"We believe the judges made the award based upon Biena Tech's good grasp of the target market and its perfect position to take advantage of the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Northeast Ohio," Neighorn says.

Focus on clean energy technology

Biena Tech is collaborating with The University of Akron Research Foundation on developing a fuel cell prototype. Biena Tech's initial foray is into carbon-neutral fuel cells that generate clean energy while operating at room temperature using carbon dioxide as a conducting source. The technology is expected to have a wide variety of applications, including residential, portable, industrial, transportation and aerospace. Biena Tech also is exploring opportunities to commercialize technologies in nano-carrier design and materials for opticalapplications.

Biena Tech was accepted into the inaugural 2011 class of the 10-Xelerator entrepreneurship program. This win assures Biena Tech a $20,000 award from the Ohio New Entrepreneurs (ONE) fund and a place in an 11-week intensive training program with the final competition to be held this summer at OSU. The winner will be selected at the end of the training and will receive a $200,000 award toward implementing its business plan.

Media contacts: Drew Williams, 330-972-5899 or, or Denise Henry, 330-972-6477 or