Icorium Engineering Company earns top-5 finish at 2024 Rice Business Plan Competition

LAWRENCE — Icorium Engineering Company, a sustainable engineering startup and spin-out company from the University of Kansas, recently placed fifth overall and won more than $180,000 in investments and nondilutive cash and in-kind prizes at the prestigious Rice Business Plan Competition at Rice University in Houston.

Kalin Baca, Icorium co-founder and chief operating officer, and Abby Harders, part-time Icorium R&D engineer, represented the company at the competition, held by the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship in early April.

Baca earned her doctorate in chemical & petroleum engineering from KU in 2023. Harders is currently pursuing her doctorate in chemical & petroleum engineering from KU. Foundation Distinguished Professor Mark Shiflett, Icorium’s co-founder and chief science officer, and Erik Blume, Icorium’s chief strategy officer, accompanied the team to Houston.

The Rice Business Plan Competition is one of the country’s premier pitch competitions and showcases the best university startups from around the world. The competition gives collegiate entrepreneurs real-world experience to pitch their startups, enhance their business strategy and learn what it takes to launch a successful company.

“All of the teams presenting at the competition were really impressive, and even making it to the final round was an incredible experience,” Baca said. “The prize money will make a huge difference for the company at this stage, and we’ve made important connections with several investors who are interested in helping us succeed down the road. We were also thrilled to learn that we were the first team to compete in the RBPC from the University of Kansas.”

More than 450 teams applied for this year’s competition, and 42 were selected to pitch their technologies for more than $1.5 million in cash and prizes.

Baca and Harders pitched through multiple rounds of intense competition, refining their pitch based on the judges’ feedback as they made it to the 15-team semifinals on day one, then on to the seven-team final round on day two. 

“Kalin and I have worked together really closely for the last few years, both at KU and Icorium, and we make a great team,” Harders said. “Some of the Q&A sessions were intense, but we received a lot of excellent and valuable feedback from the judges during and after the competition and also a lot of supportive advice from investors afterward that will help us strengthen the pitch and company’s strategy even more.”

Harders, who will complete her doctorate in chemical & petroleum engineering in July, will join Icorium full-time after graduation along with Luke Wallisch, an Icorium R&D engineering intern and KU senior in mechanical engineering.

“We feel very fortunate and are incredibly grateful to RBPC and all the judges and investors at the competition,” Harders said. “The plan has always been for me and Luke to join the company full-time when we graduate this summer. Thanks to the prizes and investment from the competition, we know for sure we can make that happen and can just focus on finishing strong at KU.

Icorium Engineering Company is a sustainable engineering company and spin-out of the KU’s Wonderful Institute for Sustainable Engineering (WISE-KU). It is located in KU Innovation Park.

Fri, 04/12/2024


Cody Howard

Media Contacts

Cody Howard

School of Engineering