The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign held its 2016 Entrepreneurship Forum yesterday to showcase the talents of its best and brightest students. The day-long event marked the culmination of many students illustrious college careers and the beginnings of many promising professional careers.

The participating students were able to show off their innovative entrepreneurial endeavors to hundreds of attendees, peers, investors and a panel of judges for two separate competitions. The event got started with a talk from Adam Evans, the Co-founder and CTO of SalesforceIQ.

After a bit of inspiration, the demo room ignited with energy as finalists for the Cozad New Venture Competition and Illinois Innovation Prize vied for the audience’s attention with the Celebrating High School Innovators Award Winners, iVenture Teams, Innovation Certificate Students, Innovative Class Projects and Entrepreneurial Resources.


forum board

For most young entrepreneurs, the journey to post-graduation prosperity is just getting started. Educational learning sessions held by a panel of alumni, professors, and industry professionals were available throughout the middle of the day. The panel discussions were on topics ranging from “How to know if your startup idea will work” to “How to avoid legal mishaps” added some helpful advice for anyone considering whether entrepreneurship was really for them.

Amid the celebration of innovation, Governor Bruce Rauner briefly extolled the importance of these students efforts and their impact on the future of the Illinois economy before being cut short. The speech was interrupted by protestors, however, the afternoon would quickly pick back up with the award for Illinois Innovation Prize.

Gov Rauner CozadThis year’s winner of the $20,000 prize which goes to the Most Innovative Student on Campus was Aadeel Akhtar, who beat out six other finalists. As a Neuroscience Ph.D. Candidate at UIUC, Aadeel is also the CEO and Co-founder of PSYONIC. The startup is developing highly advanced, low-cost prosthetic hands with sensory feedback at a significantly lower cost than the competition.

The Technology Entrepreneur Center proceeded to announced the winners of the 16th annual Cozad New Venture Competition and awarded a total of $220,000 in cash funding and in-kind prizes. The finalists who gave their final pitches to the crowd were Touch Light Innovations, BioWire Analytics, Reconstruct, Amber Waves Grain Sensing, ExoWear and Hindered Polyurea Technology (HPT).

Find out more about each of the 2016 Cozad New Venture Competition finalists here.

Amber WavesThe 2016 Cozad New Venture Competition Winners

Non-University Resource Track

1st place | Amber Waves Grain Sensing – $20,000

2nd place | Touch Light Innovations – $10,000

3 place | ExoWear – $5,000


University Resource Track

1st place | Hindered Polyurea Technology – $20,000

2nd place | Reconstruct – $10,000

3rd place| BioWire Analytics – $5,000


View the full list of award winners and prize earnings here.