Picasolar Wins Banana Republic Grad Student Challenge

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Picasolar, a graduate student business plan competition team from the University of Arkansas that has developed a patent-pending process to improve the efficiency of solar cells, has won the inaugural Banana Republic Grad Student Challenge.

Picasolar was notified of its win and the $10,000 award that comes with it on Tuesday evening, a day after the team took the MIT NSTAR Clean Energy Prize in Boston and a total of $250,000 in prize money.

The team has won $313,500 this spring in graduate business plan competitions. Its technology, a hydrogen selective emitter invented by team member and chief technology officer Seth Shumate, could improve the efficiency of solar cells by 15 percent and could save an average-sized solar panel manufacturer $120 million annually, and make the panels, and solar energy, more affordable for consumers.

Banana Republic, in partnership with Net Impact, asked graduate students to submit a traditional business plan or an idea that would demonstrate a vision for creating jobs in the United States. Net Impact is a San Francisco-based nonprofit that empowers a new generation to work within and beyond business for a sustainable future.

“The judges found the Picasolar plan both comprehensive and insightful with an innovative technology supported by detailed analysis and measured assumptions,” said Joanna Spoth of Net Impact.

It’s the fourth competition victory for Picasolar since the team formed in the New Venture Development graduate course taught by Carol Reeves, who holds the Cecil and Gwendolyn Cupp Applied Professorship in Entrepreneurship in the Sam M. Walton College of Business.

In addition to the prize money, Picasolar was awarded a new wardrobe from Banana Republic.

Picasolar includes:

  • Shumate, a doctoral student in the microelectronics-photonics program offered by the College of Engineering and J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences
  • Trish Flanagan, who is graduating this spring with a dual master of business administration and public service degree offered by the Walton College and the Clinton School of Public Service in Little Rock
  • Matthew Young, a doctoral student in electrical engineering
  • Michael Miller, who is graduating this spring with a master of accountancy from Walton College.

Carol Reeves, vice provost for entrepreneurship
Academic Affairs
479-575-6220, creeves@uark.edu

Joanna Spoth,
Net Impact
(415) 495-4230, jspoth@netimpact.org


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