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AtmoSpark Water Generation team tapped a finalist in TAMU New Ventures

AtmoSpark Water Generation, developed at Lamar University by Tejus Mane, a recent graduate with a master’s degree in chemical engineering, and Aniket Khade, a Ph.D. candidate in chemical engineering, was named a finalist and placed 6th among 16 semi-finalist teams in the 2018 Texas A&M New Ventures competition, earning the pair a $5,000 prize.

AtmoSpark team at TNVCThe student led team, working with LU’s Center for Innovation, Commercialization and Entrepreneurship (CICE), entered into competition for more than $380,000 in cash and investment prizes in the competition’s largest prize pool yet. 

The Texas A&M New Ventures Competition is open to all Texas-based companies seeking to bring a new or enhanced technology to the marketplace. Participant companies must be technology- or science-focused independent ventures in the pre-seed/seed, start-up or early growth stages. 

"The companies that received awards at the 2018 Texas A&M New Ventures Competition have gone through multiple, rigorous rounds of vetting, coaching, and judging and are truly the best-of-the-best in the State of Texas.  We know from 4 years of data that these companies will go on to raise more capital, create more jobs and generally make bigger positive impact on our lives with their technologies than their peers,” said Chris Scotti, chair of TNVC 2018. 

Originally envisioned as a solution to water shortages in developing countries, the technology holds promise as one means of addressing potable water needs in rural areas and mobile recreation activities, Mane said.

“We are an atmospheric water generation company developing technology to bring fresh water to rural and urban communities and hard to reach areas such as offshore platforms, for disaster relief and in maritime,” Mane said.

Mane, CEO of AtmoSpark, and co-founder Khade, submitted the grant proposal with the help of LU’s CICE, the Office of Sponsored Research, and Jerry Lin, senior director of graduate programs, University Professor and Ann Die-Hasselmo Faculty Scholar at LU. Matthew Bukovicky, an M.B.A. student in leadership, joins Mane and Khade on the team.

The team has benefited from a National Science Foundation I-Corps program grant that has helped them identify valuable product opportunities that can emerge from academic research, and gain skills in entrepreneurship through training in customer discovery and guidance from established entrepreneurs. Atmospark has also earned top prize in three recent competitions: the 2017 Texas Rural Challenge, the Big Idea Challenge at LU, and the Texas State University Business Plan competition.

The AtmoSpark project gained additional traction last summer by participating in OwlSpark, Rice University’s three-month entrepreneurship accelerator program, where they developed a mock-up prototype of the device.

Mane first had the idea while attending the Technology Innovation and Entrepreneurship graduate class. The class changed his professional trajectory, Mane said, to a future in entrepreneurship.

“Dr. David Cocke’s class at the CICE was the major reason we were able to start this project, and are now able to bring it to a state that we are able to get NSF funding for customer discovery and other outside funding as well,” Mane said. “The CICE has been a huge support for us.”

The Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station and The Texas A&M University System, along with a growing number of sponsors, are working to ensure today’s innovative ideas become a reality through the Texas A&M New Ventures Competition. Aimed at promoting the commercialization of emerging technology, the competition recognizes companies with high-growth potential and provides seed funding to help them effectively execute their ideas and advance product development.

The 2018 TNVC was made possible by the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship, Texas A&M College of Science, Texas A&M Health Science Center, TEES Clean Energy Incubator, Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service, Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M School of Innovation, Texas A&M Division of Research, 80/20 Foundation, TMC Innovation, GOOSE Society, Aggie Angel Network, Research Valley Partnership, Amerra, Biotex, Paragon, Pioneer Natural Resources, Thomas Horstemeyer, Ramey & Schwaller Law Firm, Chevron Technology Ventures, Winstead PC and OTA Compression/Kimark Systems.