Auburn-led team among three winners of Alabama Launchpad Start-Up Competition

AUBURN UNIVERSITY – An entrepreneur team led by a recent Auburn University graduate is one of three winners in the Alabama Launchpad Start-Up Competition’s $100,000 proof of commercial relevance final round, announced recently by the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama Foundation.

The team’s company, Carbon NanoTube Engineered Surfaces, or CNTES, was formed to enhance the surface composition of composite materials, improving interlaminate strength by as much as 40 percent to date; the technology could be applied in the manufacturing of products such as stronger and more efficient wind turbine blades. The technology is a co-invention between Auburn and the University of Alabama, which also contributed to the team.

“I want to congratulate team leader Adam Ficken and his team for a great job against tough competition in the 2013 Alabama Launchpad program,” said John Weete, Auburn University assistant vice president for technology transfer and commercialization. “We will continue to support them in their efforts to improve and commercialize the surface engineered materials.”

CNTES was awarded $8,000 to further develop its business plan for entry into the marketplace. Funds were awarded to teams based on the decision of a five-judge panel comprised of entrepreneurs, investors and corporate stakeholders that was weighed with team budgets that were submitted during the course of the competition.

Ficken is a recent Auburn graduate with a Masters of Business Administration and Masters of Industrial and Systems Engineering and a former Office of Technology Transfer intern. Team members include Xinyu Zhang, assistant professor in the Department of Polymer and Fiber Engineering in the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering, Brian Wright, associate director of commercialization in the Office of Technology Transfer, and Rick Swatloski, director of the Office of Technology Transfer at the University of Alabama.

“Adam did an outstanding job highlighting how the Launchpad funds could be utilized to improve upon the demonstrated physical properties of the technology, which is what the industry is asking for,” said Wright. “Now the testing needs to be done.”

The two other Alabama Launchpad winners were Exscien Corp of Mobile and Nutripilot of Birmingham. In all, 22 teams competed in the event that began in December

Alabama Launchpad, started seven years ago, is a program of the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama Foundation. The program receives support from six partnering universities: Auburn University, Alabama State University, the University of Alabama, University of Alabama at Birmingham, University of Alabama in Huntsville and the University of South Alabama. More information is available at

(Written by Charles Martin.)

Contacts: Charles Martin, Office of Communications and Marketing (334) 844-9999, (, or Brian Wright, Office of Technology Transfer, (334) 844-7962 (