Sponsors & Prizes

Cozad New Venture Challenge Sponsors

Scroll to the bottom for information about funding, prizes, and tracks for 2024.



  • Joe Beatty
  • Jaime Djuhar
  • Peter Fox
  • Chris Hartman
  • Joe Jablonski
  • Bill Jackson
  • Mark & Ruth Karasek
  • Marcin Kleczynski
  • Gayle & Rick Landyut
  • Rick Stephens
  • Mark Tebbe
  • John Thode
  • Adam Tilton
  • Craig & Sabrina Vodnik
  • Serra Ventures


Funding and Prizes 2024

In 2024, teams are competing for over $400,000 in funding and in-kind prizes. The awards are funded through sponsorship, alumni donations, and campus partners. All teams who meet the requirements of the Cozad New Venture Challenge, including submitting all mandatory deliverables and meet attendance requirements, have the opportunity to compete in the Demo Showcase in April. Students will get to showcase their ideas to venture capitalists, early-stage investors, and successful entrepreneurs who serve as judges. The judges determine which teams will present their ventures at the Finals Event. Questions? Please contact Stephanie Faraci at shalvors@illinois.edu or Kearsa Rawson at klrawson@illinois.edu.


Cozad New Venture Challenge Finalists Prize Pool   |  Up to $100,000

Awarding Cozad New Venture Challenge finalists prizes from a pool of approximately $100,000 for exceptional startups poised for breakthrough success in order to elevate their startups and move their vision forward.  

  • Eligibility: Cozad New Venture Challenge Finalists 
  • Sponsored by: Generous contributors to the TEC Exceleration Fund 

Rural Health Innovation Prize  |  Up to $30,000

For teams exploring solutions related to access to care, mental health, addiction, obesity, nutrition, and care for aging individuals. 

Grainger Engineering Cozad Prize  |  Up to $25,000 

This prize seeks to secure promising Grainger Engineering student technology startups from a pool of up to $25,000 to propel these ventures forward.  This award is for teams ready to elevate their trajectory to connect with the Chicago tech ecosystem, access guidance from tech leaders and investors, and compete in a Chicago-based pitch competition against other Midwestern teams to thrive in Chicago’s tech landscape. 

Health Innovation Prize  |  Up to $25,000 

This prize recognizes startups leveraging cutting-edge technology to pioneer transformative solutions in healthcare, catalyzing groundbreaking advancements in medical innovation.

Business & Engineering Partnership Prize  |  Up to $25,000 

Rewards exceptional teams with high potential for growth comprised of Gies Business and Grainger Engineering students actively engaged in Cozad New Venture Challenge programming and can demonstrate an equitable partnership. These teams will qualify to participate in opportunities focused on connecting teams to the robust entrepreneurship resources available in Chicago including commercialization programs that may offer the opportunity for follow on funding.   

  • Eligibility: Teams that are composed of at least one Gies Business student and at least one Grainger Engineering student
  • Sponsored by: Rick and Gayle Landuyt

Advancement in Sports Medicine Prize  |  Up to $20,000

This prize recognizes innovative solutions bridging healthcare and athletics, empowering past and present athletes through technology and medical advancements.  

AWARE Prizes  |  Awards of $250 - $1,000 from a pool of up to $15,000 

These prizes will be awarded to teams for capital to launch and accelerate their ideas. AWARE is dedicated to fostering inclusivity and empowering participation in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. Through a multifaceted approach, AWARE is committed to providing opportunities and creating pathways for students from groups that are not yet well-represented in technology entrepreneurship. 

  • Eligibility: Teams that present at Demo Day. Preference may be given to teams with at least one team lead or team member who self-identifies as underrepresented in engineering entrepreneurship.
  • Sponsored by: Craig & Sabrina Vodnik

Dr. Paul Magelli Innovation Award  |  $10,000  

This prize honors Dr. Magelli and his significant impact on the University of Illinois. Dr. Magelli was a driving force for entrepreneurship throughout the University launching startups and student careers for over 20 years. Illinois Ventures, the venture capital arm of the University of Illinois System, provides early-stage investment capital for advanced technology ventures led by faculty, students, and alumni. Illinois Ventures also operates Illini Angels, an alumni angel group that invests in University-related startups. 

  • Eligibility: Cozad New Venture Challenge Finalists 
  • Sponsored by: Illinois Ventures

Commitment to Entrepreneurship Prize  |  Awards of $250 - $1,000 from a pool of up to $10,000 

For teams that remained dedicated to developing their ideas throughout the semester and are encouraged to continue their journey, knowing their efforts are valued and supported. 

  • Eligibility: Teams that participate in Cozad New Venture Challenge workshops and showcase at Demo Day
  • Sponsored by: Hoveida Family Foundation  

Innovate & Iterate Prototyping Microgrants  |  $250 - $500 prizes from a pool of up to $5,500 

We’re offering microgrants to cover the cost of special equipment, tools, and supplies to support student teams in building prototypes, refining ideas, and continuously iterating their innovations.  

    • Eligibility: Any Cozad New Venture Challenge team working on physical projects that need to cover supply and material costs
    • Sponsored by: Former Cozad New Venture Challenge participant Matt Gornick, Founder and CEO of OrangeQC

Global Impact Innovator Award  |  Up to $5,000 

This generous contribution aims to inspire and leverage students’ entrepreneurial talents to create meaningful impact and drive positive change across borders. By recognizing and supporting innovative startup ideas with an international focus, this award encourages students to embrace the challenges and opportunities of global entrepreneurship and contribute to building a more interconnected and prosperous world.

    • Eligibility: Students working toward positive change on a global scale and/or ventures that will be based outside of the U.S.
    • Sponsored by: Jaime Djuhar

Finals Best Pitch  |  $5,000 

The Finals Best Pitch award recognizes teams that excel in conveying a compelling vision using their visual aids and sharing information in an organized way within the time constraints. 

Ag Innovation Prize  |  Up to $2,500  

For students pioneering agriculture innovation ideas that seek to boost sustainability, increase efficiencies, and optimize resource improvement in the face of global challenges like climate change and food security.  

  • Eligibility: Any Cozad New Venture Challenge team that presents at Demo Day 
  • Sponsored by: The Edwin Moore Family

Demo Day Best Pitch  |  $500 

The Demo Day Best Pitch Award recognizes teams that excel in conveying a compelling vision for their idea.  

  • Eligibility: Cozad New Venture Challenge teams that present at Demo Day 
  • Sponsored by: Cozad Asset Management

Demo Day Out of the Box Thinking  |  $500 

This prize recognizes students’ creativity, originality, and visionary approach to solving problems with novel concepts.  

Social Impact Prize  |  $500 

The Social Impact Prize recognizes and celebrates a student startup that demonstrates outstanding commitment to creating positive change and making the world a better place through innovative solutions.


Biophia Consulting  |  Healthcare Consulting Services Prize

20 hours of healthcare innovation consulting for healthcare teams interested in advancing their medical innovations. Biophia Consulting is a biotechnology, pharmaceutical, clinical diagnostics and medical device consulting company dedicated to providing a wide array of critical scientific expertise focused on assisting clients in the discovery, development and commercialization of novel therapies.  

  • Eligibility: Teams in the healthcare track who are ready to actively engage with Biophia consultants to keep their ventures moving forward.  
  • Sponsored by: Biophia Consulting

EnterpriseWorks  |  Student Startup Tenancy Prize

EnterpriseWorks remains the heart of the Research Park’s community building efforts, and ensures the intersection of the Research Park’s startup and corporate innovation community with faculty, students, and staff at the University. This prize includes access to the co-working and conference room spaces in EnterpriseWorks, the startup incubator at the Research Park, beginning May 2024 through April 2025. 

  • Eligibility: Eligible Cozad New Venture Challenge Finalists must have a founder/executive enrolled as a student at the University of Illinois for the 2024-2025 academic year, be starting a for-profit business, and be technology-based. Winners of this prize will be required to submit an application and develop a Memorandum of Understanding with EnterpriseWorks to access the aforementioned benefits. 
  • Sponsored by: EnterpriseWorks in the University of Illinois Research Park 

EnterpriseWorks  |  JumpStart Prize 

Awarded toa teamseeking to launch their new companyat EnterpriseWorks incubator at the University of Illinois Research Park. This award funds 80% of the cost of professional business and legal services selected by the team to help them fund their new company in the first year. Services include legal formation, business planning, Entrepreneur-In-Residence (EIR) consulting, andgrant support. 

Illinois Business Consulting  |  Startup Consulting Services Prize

The winning team will have the opportunity to work with multi-disciplinary teams of highly qualified students to help you solve challenges and identify opportunities to provide fresh perspective and remarkable insights. 

mHUB  |  Co-Working Membership Prize  

Our Chicago partner mHUB will provide a 3-month membership to two different teams to provide resources for HardTech startups. Winners will enjoy access to shared workspaces, prototyping shop, meeting spaces, a network of regional suppliers and connect to a valuable Chicago network of mentors and venture capital resources. 

  • Eligibility: Cozad New Venture Challenge teams that participate in Demo Day and are interested in locating in Chicago. This prize will expire December 31, 2024.  
  • Sponsored by: mHUB 

Singleton Law Firm  |  Legal Support Prize

In-kind legal support up to $1,200 for eight teams.

TechNexus  |  TeamWorking Space Prize

Located in the West Loop, TechNexus helps leading corporations and ambitious entrepreneurs develop mutually beneficial relationships that accelerate growth opportunities. They invest capital, incubate, and collaborate to create new growth opportunities. Their flexible TeamWorking membership includes access to amenities with virtual-enabled huddle and meeting rooms, shared spaces, and on-demand meeting rooms. You’ll receive invitations to exclusive community and other tech discounts. 

  • Eligibility: This prize will be awarded to the top three teams during open hours for up to one year following their win. 
  • Sponsored by: TechNexus Venture Collaborative