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Updated 10:00 AM June 8, 2009

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Ross MBAs win $200,000 from MIT for startup

A team of Stephen M. Ross School of Business MBAs and their startup, Husk Insulation, won the $200,000 MIT Clean Energy Prize.

It is a national student competition founded by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the U.S. Department of Energy, and utility NSTAR to accelerate the pace of clean energy entrepreneurship.

The Ross representatives also picked up the $10,000 prize in the competition's biomass category.

Husk Insulation is poised to convert agricultural waste (including rice husk ash) into thin, high-grade and affordable insulation for the refrigeration industry. The enterprise was conceived by 2009 graduates Erica Graham, Shally Madan, Siddharth Sinha and Ian Dailey, and master's candidate Elizabeth Uhlhorn.

In February the innovative business plan took the $15,000 Pryor-Hale Award for best business at the Michigan Business Challenge. In March it was awarded the $21,000 second prize in the DTE Energy Clean Energy Prize Competition.

"The MIT prize is certainly a great win for our Husk team," Sinha says. "But we also think it's a fantastic win for Ross and the University of Michigan. It's just one example of the many great things that come out of the school and the university as a whole."

The Ross team beat out more than 100 other teams representing 40 schools nationwide. Husk Insulation was cited for its energy savings impact and market potential as well as the team's competitive advantage.

The Husk Insulation team plans to use the prize funds to create a market-ready prototype of its sustainable product, which has the potential to boost the efficiency of a refrigerator by up to 50 percent and replace polystyrene panels that are four times as thick.

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