Competing for best mousetrap: Rice’s biz plan showdown

April 1, 2011, 5:54 PM UTC

From an answer to trash buildup in India to building a better, cheaper light bulb, here’s a look at the 42 winning ideas that will compete for top prize at Rice’s upcoming business plan competition.

FORTUNE — What do an upscale men’s barbershop chain and a vaccine to combat the pesky horn fly have in common? Both are among the 42 business ideas selected to compete in the prestigious Rice University Business Plan Competition.

Rice University's Jones Graduate School of Business

The competition received applications from 510 teams for one of the contest’s coveted 42 slots, up 20% over last year’s record number of entries. The competitors come from U.S. business schools including MIT, The Johns Hopkins University and the University of Arkansas, home of last year’s winning team. The field also boasts eight international squads from countries such as Sweden, Thailand and Brazil.

The competition, which will take place April 14-16 in Houston, is a big draw for budding science and technology entrepreneurs, with entrants submitting business plans in categories from biotech to energy to IT.

Washington University in St. Louis and The University of Chicago’s teams are both pitching concepts that involve using computer-assisted diagnosis (CAD) for the early detection of cancer. Meanwhile, The University of Cambridge in England team has a technology to make energy efficient LEDs (light-emitting diodes) up to five times cheaper than is currently possible.

The field also includes ideas that aim to combat global issues with entrepreneurial might, such as a waste management system for slums in India, proposed by a Northwestern University team.

And there’s something for consumers too: A team from The Georgia Institute of Technology has a “training shirt” with weight inserts that they say increases caloric burn while you work out.

The teams will compete for a $400,000 grand prize by making 15-minute presentations before judging panels of entrepreneurs and investors. There are also specific prizes for the different categories, including a new $100,000 “clean” tech award from esteemed venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. In total, more than $1 million in prizes will be awarded.

According to the contest’s track record, the seed money is put to good use. Over the 10 years since the competition began, 117 competitors have successfully launched their businesses, raising more than $327 million in funding and creating more than 600 new jobs in their early stages.

The competition is hosted and organized by the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship, the school’s initiative devoted to supporting entrepreneurship. This year, Fortune is co-sponsoring the contest and will be at the scene, talking with participating students, advisers and judges. Stay tuned…

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