Stories of Technology, Innovation, & Entrepreneurship in the Southeast

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April 23, 2024 | Tom Ballard

U News 1 | Auburn partnering with ORNL on a $12.5 million electric power grid project

Georgia Tech opens AI Markerspace, while North Carolina State launches Seed2Grow incubator.

From Auburn University:

Auburn University’s McCrary Institute for Cyber and Critical Infrastructure Security was awarded a $10 million U.S. Department of Energy grant in partnership with Oak Ridge National Laboratory to create a pilot regional cybersecurity research and operations center to protect the electric power grid against cyberattacks.

The total value of the project is $12.5 million, with the additional $2.5 million coming from Auburn University and other strategic partners.

The center, officially named the Southeast Region Cybersecurity Collaboration Center (SERC3), will bring together experts from the private sector, academia and government to share information and generate innovative real-world solutions to protect the nation’s power grid and other key sectors. It will include a mock utility command center to train participants in real-time cyber defense.

Click here to learn more.

From the Georgia Institute of Technology:

Georgia Tech’s College of Engineering has established an artificial intelligence (AI) supercomputer hub dedicated exclusively to teaching students. The initiative — the AI Makerspace — was launched in collaboration with NVIDIA. College leaders call it a digital sandbox for students to understand and use AI in the classroom

Initially focusing on undergraduate students, the AI Makerspace aims to democratize access to computing resources typically reserved for researchers or technology companies. Students will access the cluster online as part of their coursework, deepening their AI skills through hands-on experience. The Makerspace will also better position students after graduation as they work with AI professionals and help shape the technology’s future applications.

At its core, the Georgia Tech AI Makerspace is a dedicated computing cluster paired with NVIDIA AI enterprise software. The software technology resides on an advanced AI infrastructure that is designed, built, and deployed by Penguin Solutions, providing a virtual gateway to a high-performance computing environment.

From North Carolina State University:

Seed2Grow is a new incubator that helps entrepreneurs bring North Carolina State (NC State) plant sciences discoveries into the marketplace to advance agriculture in North Carolina and beyond. Part of the N.C. Plant Sciences Initiative, the incubator provides entrepreneurs from two companies with office and laboratory space.

The inaugural start-ups in the 2,500-square-foot incubator are Hoofprint Biome and Raleigh Biosciences. Hoofprint Biome, founded by NC State alumni Kathryn Polkoff and Scott Collins, has discovered novel enzymes that could naturally prevent methane emissions from cattle while increasing their productivity and profitability.

Raleigh Biosciences was founded by Ross Sozzani, an NC State Professor of Plant and Molecular Biology, and Duke University medical investigator Philip Benfey. It generates cell type-specific gene expression data and uses it for targeting control of gene expression and expediting crop development.

From Harvard University:

Harvard Business School recently hosted its 27th annual New Venture Competition (NVC) with 12 student finalist teams competing for a total of $225,000 in cash prizes.

The NVC, open to students and alumni, had 262 participating teams, spanning various tracks including Student Business, Student Social Enterprise, and Alumni. The top prize in the Student Business Track and Student Social Enterprise Track was $75,000 each, with runner-up prizes of $25,000; two audience prizes of $5,000; and $15,000 in Tough Technology prizes. This year’s competition was vetted by over 300 judges and mentors from a variety of fields, including venture capital, private equity, law, accounting, philanthropy, impact investing, and social entrepreneurship.

  • Crop Diagnostix clinched the top spot in the Student Business Track. The technology company analyzes gene expression in plants to help farmers optimize their inputs and maximize yield.
  • Solara took center stage in the Student Social Enterprise Track. The new venture offers an on-demand solar irrigation service to Indian farmers, increasing their access to affordable, reliable, and clean irrigation methods.
  • Elisa emerged as the top winner in the Alumni Track, claiming the first-place spot for over $100,000 in cash and in-kind prizes. The start-up is dedicated to revolutionizing child nutrition in Latin America by providing fresh and additive-free meals, addressing crucial health challenges in the region.

From George Washington University:

The “New Venture Competition” (NVC) provides every George Washington (GW) student, faculty, staff, and alumni with a real-world educational experience in developing, testing, and launching their own start-ups, whether for business or social ventures. The competition is open to every GW student in one of five tracks: Consumer Goods and Services, Business Goods and Services, Social Innovation, Healthcare and Life Sciences, and Explorer.

In its 16-year history, the NVC has served more than 3,000 student entrepreneurs and awarded $2 million in prizes. Recently, GW announced that its latest NVC event awarded more than $330,000 to winners, including $157,000 in cash, for the nationally recognized competition.

School of Engineering and Applied Science doctoral students Vikas Soni and Anmol Taploo won the most prize money at $19,000, as they won a top $10,000 prize for the Health Care & Life Sciences Track, another $5,000 for Best Prototype, and $4,000 for winning the Spirit of NVC Award. They pitched a plasma medicine technology — which they called JivaJet, by Brave Scientific — that addressed the challenges of antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections in veterinary healthcare. The device uses cold atmospheric plasma to target and eliminate the antibiotic resistant bacteria on the skin by generating free radicals that target the DNA and cell membrane of the bacteria.


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