Arkansas Wins 2017 SEC Student Pitch Competition

A team from the University of Arkansas won first place in the 2017 SEC Student Pitch Competition held at the University of Florida on Monday, Nov. 13.

At the competition in Gainesville, Florida, Andrew Miles and Witness Martin pitched Grox Industries, a company they formed last year as students in the New Venture Development course taught by Carol Reeves, associate vice provost for entrepreneurship at Arkansas.

“It feels great to come all the way from Arkansas and win first place,” Miles said. “Just being around an eclectic group of entrepreneurs and innovators is exciting.”

The core technology behind Grox Industries’ business, a unique production method for the nanomaterial graphene oxide, was developed in the lab of U of A chemistry professor Ryan Tian. Grox developed a custom, graphene oxide-based window coating line called Helios. Compared to other coatings on the market, Helios absorbs more damaging ultraviolet light, while allowing more aesthetically pleasing visible light to pass through a window.

“Andrew, Witness, and the other members of the Grox team have worked incredibly hard for their success on the competition circuit,” said Carol Reeves, who is the team adviser. “Commercializing academic research is not an easy thing to do, but the potential rewards are great for the university, region and all parties involved.”

Grox Industries has a remarkable record in entrepreneurship competitions. The team won first place at the University of Manitoba’s Stu Clark Investment Competition last March, was awarded a $30,000 prize with their first-place finish in the graduate division of the 10th Donald W. Reynolds Tri-State Collegiate Business Plan Competition last May in Las Vegas, Nevada, and took second place in the graduate division, the Delta Plastics Innovation Award, and $20,000 in Arkansas’ 2017 Donald W. Reynolds Governor’s Cup Collegiate Business Plan Competition in April.

The University of Florida finished second and Auburn University took third place in the SEC Student Pitch Competition.

Teams of students representing participating Southeastern Conference universities presented innovative product ideas to a panel of judges on Monday afternoon. The panel selected three finalist teams that later presented to a separate set of judges. Aside from participating students, leaders from entrepreneurship or innovation centers at the participating universities were on hand to support the student teams and to exchange best practices.

The SEC Student Pitch Competition is supported by the SEC under its SECU banner. SECU, the academic initiative of the SEC, serves as the primary mechanism through which the collaborative academic endeavors and achievements of member universities are supported and advanced.

The 2018 SEC Student Pitch Competition will take place next fall at Texas A&M University.