Rice U.’s Office of Innovation awards inaugural One Small Step Grants

Bioengineering lab

HOUSTON – (Feb. 27, 2024) – The Office of Innovation at Rice University announced four awardees of the inaugural One Small Step Grants, marking a significant milestone in accelerating the transition from lab to market for Rice-developed technologies. Launched in September 2023, the grant aims to support lab-stage projects across Rice, providing crucial capital for projects to spin out of the university and successfully attract investment from angel investors and venture capital.

“Being able to fund near-commercial projects represents a leap forward in our mission of supporting the cutting-edge work of our faculty and students and helping bring those to market,” said Adrian Trömel, assistant vice president for strategy and investments. “Feedback from industry and investors show that they’re excited on how the One Small Step grants help derisk these technologies, getting them ready to launch. Watch this space for the next generation of leading deeptech companies!”

Bioengineering lab
Photo by Brandon Martin.

Rice Chief Innovation Officer Paul Cherukuri said, “The inaugural winners of the One Small Step Grant represent the innovative spirit and dedication to excellence that defines our students and faculty. We are proud to support these groundbreaking projects on their journey from lab to market."

In its inaugural cycle, the One Small Step Grant received 28 applications from across campus, including medical devices, new materials, biotech and climate technology, among others. After a rigorous evaluation process, four outstanding projects were selected for funding, receiving a total of $360,000:

  • PerisBio $100k Award - Developed by Samira Aghlara-Fotovat and Samantha Fleury from Rice Professor Omid Veiseh's Lab, PerisBio focuses on novel, hydrogel-encapsulated engineered "cell factories" for the minimally invasive treatment of endometriosis.
  • Solidec $100k Award  - Ryan Duchanois and Yang Xia from Rice Professor Haotian Wang's Lab are founders of Solidec, a room temperature, solid-state direct air capture technology.
  • HornetX $80k Award  - Led by Rice Professor Aditya Mohite's Lab, HornetX aims to produce highly stable green hydrogen using a perovskite-based photoelectrochemical cell with leading efficiency.
  • Coflux $80k Award  - Developed by Jeremy Daum and Alec Ajnsztajn from the labs of Rice Professors Rafael Verduzco and Pulickel Ajayan, Coflux focuses on covalent organic framework-based photocatalysts for instream remediation of PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) from water.

The One Small Step Grant was funded by Rice University's Office of Innovation, with support from Breakthrough Energy Fellows for climate and energy projects.

To ensure an objective evaluation of the projects and vote on the awards, the Office of Innovation formed an investment advisory committee, composed of experts including entrepreneurs, investors and corporate executives from various industries. The committee's diverse expertise will play a pivotal role in guiding the strategic direction of the One Small Step program and ensuring its success.

For more information about the One Small Step Grant and the Office of Innovation at Rice University, please visit innovation.rice.edu.