Virginia Tech’s National Center for Earth and Environmental Nanotechnology Infrastructure (NanoEarth) hosted the eighth annual Nanotechnology Entrepreneurship Challenge (NTEC) this past spring. This marks the first year that the competition was open to all 16 National Nanotechnology Coordinated Infrastructure (NNCI) sites. This Spring, eight teams from five NNCI sites were selected to participate in the 2022 seven-week virtual NTEC Accelerator Program.

Starting in 2014, NTEC was launched to encourage diverse, college-student led teams to focus on innovative sustainable nanotechnology applications. Throughout the seven-week virtual experience, teams receive mentorship from nanotechnology entrepreneurs and have access to NNCI facilities and staff.  They learn how to gauge customer interest in their idea, develop a business model, and create a nanotechnology-enabled minimum viable product (MVP). In May, an external group of panelists chose the top teams during a virtual NTEC Showcase.

NNCI site San Diego Nontechnology Infrastructure (SDNI) at the University of California at San Diego won the Top Overall Team Award. Led by Amer Yaghi with team members Tom Park, Abdulhameed Abdal and Elio Li, the team proposed “Bio-Inspired Self-Powered and Flexible Wearable Device for Continuous Detection and Treatment of Parkinson’s Disease”. The supervising faculty were Dr. Shen Xu, Associate Professor of Nanoengineering at UCSD and Dr. Yves Theriault, Executive Director of Education and Outreach at SDNI. Amer described the significant role the team’s mentors played in making their team successful including making team members “feel welcomed and appreciated”, “sharing key business strategies and insights”, and “always reminding us that there are no limits to our creativity and abilities”.

A full article about the UC San Diego teams is available on their website.

North Carolina A&T State University student Wesley Williams, sponsored by the NNCI site, Southeastern Nanotechnology Infrastructure Corridor (SENIC) and NanoEarth’s Multicultural and Underserved Nanoscience Initiative (MUNI), won the Diversity Award. The pharmaceutical nanotechnology graduate student presented “Molecularly-Imprinted Nanoparticle (MPI) Nanoparticles for the Sensing and Remediation of Toxic Incident Anthropogenically-Derived Nanoplastics in the Hydrosphere”. The supervising faculty member was Shyam Aravamudhan, Associate Professor of Nanoengineering and the Director of the Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering (JSSN) Core Facilities. Wesley states he “expanded my knowledge, interests and skillset in a short time” through this experience. 

NanoEarth is a node of the NNCI, an NSF-funded network of 16 centers spread throughout the United States serving as user facilities for cutting edge nanotechnology research. NanoEarth is part of Virginia Tech's Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science (ICTAS), and proudly headquartered in Blacksburg, Virginia.

NTEC is made possible by NSF NNCI funding and individual support and resources available at each participating site.

The next call for proposals will be in early 2023. If you have any questions, please reach out to Research Professor Matt Hull, PhD at