NUvention: Nanotechnology

NUvention: Nano International Institute of Nanotechnology

The Farley Center for Entrepreneurship and the International Institute for Nanotechnology (IIN) are launching a new NUvention course entitled NUvention: Nano. The partnership model proposed here is similar to the NUvention: Energy where the Farley Center partnered with ISEN-Institute for Sustainability and Energy at Northwestern. NUvention: Energy has completed its 4th year of classes. A NUvention: Energy team, SiNode Systems, won the 2013 US Department of Energy and Rice University Business Plan competitions and over $1 million in financing. Although our primary goal is learning, NUvention classes have been the most consistent source of start-ups flowing out of any Northwestern class.


View and download the current syllabus for NUvention: Nano, which is instructed by the director of the Farley Center, Michael Marasco.

Why Nanotechnology?

NUvention has attempted to focus on areas where Northwestern has strengths with classes in the areas of Analytics, Medical, Energy, Web, Digital Media, and Social Entrepreneurship. Nano is a unique strength of NU with a long and established track record of commercialization already. Therefore, an obvious question is why should a NUvention class be offered. Reasons include:

  • Ability to apply a more interdisciplinary approach to student teams.
  • New teaching frameworks of Lean Launchpad, Lean Startup, Customer Development and Business Model Canvas create opportunities to create a much more robust learning environment.
  • Live case studies with existing companies commercializing nanotech
  • Ability to improve upon current commercialization track record.

NUvention: Nano Differentiators

NUvention: Nano differs from other NUvention classes in a number of areas:

  • Partnership with Researchers – Interdisciplinary student teams will be created and assigned to an NU faculty member to work on commercializing a technology the faculty member believes has potential. This technology will have been already disclosed to the Innovation and New Ventures Office (INVO) and the faculty member has expressed an interest in creating a start-up to commercialize. There is no expectation for student-developed intellectual property. Any decision to create a start-up rests with NU faculty member, INVO and class faculty.
  • Commercialization Innovation – Focus of class is to determine a viable business model to commercialize faculty research. Student teams are not engaged in technology innovation, but their efforts may inform technology evolution. This singular focus has not been attempted in other NUvention classes.
  • Alumni/Industry Engagement – There is significant alumni and industry interest in this area that will be leveraged to enhance the learning of all teams in the class.

Class Projects


ProticonTM is a biotechnology company built on a revolutionary technology platform developed in the Mrksich Lab at Northwestern University. We are focused on the discovery and development of next generation protein therapeutics, including bi-specific antibodies and multi-valent proteins, for the treatment of cancer, autoimmune and inflammatory diseases.


The transparent conductor is everywhere. It is arguably the one product we look at more than any other: itʼs in our phones, our computer screens, our TVs, and our iPads. Most of us spend 8-10 hours every day looking at a transparent conductor. In addition to displays, the transparent conductor is key to high efficiency lighting, smart windows, and solar energy. The direct market for the transparent conductor today is $4B and is quickly growing. However, there are major problems with todayʼs incumbent transparent conductor, so-called “indium tin oxide” (ITO). ITO is brittle, low efficiency, and expensive. eLucid solves these problems through its patented technology from Northwestern University.


The Hersam lab has developed a novel graphene-titania photocatalyst that dramatically decreases the costs of operating and deploying UV/AOP. It allows for a five-fold increase in efficiency by separating the charges created in the photocatalytic process. This increased efficiency allows for the photocatalyst to be deployed as a drop-in replacement into current UV disinfection or chemical-assisted UV/AOP systems. The product would be photocatalyst-coated quartz sleeves that replace those currently being used, which would provide all the benefits of UV/AOP while eliminating the need for additional chemicals.


NUPak is an innovation consulting firm, focused on bringing technologies to bear to generate competitive advantage through packaging. Through advanced modeling and analysis techniques, NUPak considers product and package holistically, to enable value creation in operations, logistics, and supply chain. NUPak designs custom packaging solutions in order to give our clients a range of options for shelf life. NUPak combines deep understanding of existing barrier film technologies with knowledge of emerging technologies in order to deliver optimized packaging to improve profitability of new products.


Farley Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation

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