“Through the University of Arkansas’ generous support, NurLabs has accomplished our first phase feasibility study in lung cancer patients with incredibly promising results! The Heartland Challenge sent us on this incredible trajectory to make our theoretical study a reality. Because of this experience, we now have a network of mentors and potential future investors who believe in us to bring this technology to market for real-world patient benefit.” 

Sumita T. Jonak

Founder + CEO, NurLabs

2021 Heartland Challenge 1st Place Winner

Nurlabs LOGONurlabs Photo Collage


The 2021 competition was held virtually on April 15-16, 2021. 

Congratulations to our winners!

1st Place - NurLabs from University of California Los Angeles 

2nd Place - Backup from the University of Arkansas

3rd Place - Urogix from Washington University in St. Louis

4th Place - BioSealXE from Oklahoma State University


Elevator Pitch Competition Winners

1st Place - Cerobex Drug Delivery from Tufts Universtiy

2nd Place - Backup from the University of Arkansas


Delta Solar Innovation Award - $1K to Urogix from Washington University in St. Louis





Listen to Matt Waller, Dean of the Sam M. Walton College of Business, talk with the 2020 Heartland Challenge winner, Robert Hatcher of Aurign, on the Be EPIC podcast.  

Aurign, a music publishing startup from Georgia State University, won $50,000 in last year’s competition for their idea of using blockchain technology to securely file music-publishing documents. 

 Robert Hatcher, Aurign

“Winning the Heartland Challenge opened a lot of doors for the company and put us in incredible position to receive further funding,” said Robert Hatcher, Aurign’s CEO. 


Hatcher added that his company is currently in beta testing and working through legal aspects of implementing their platform. 

The first Heartland Challenge Startup competition was held virutally on May 28-29, 2020. 

The invited graduate student entrepreneurial teams competed for a cash prize pool of $95,000, with $50,000 going to the first place team, Aurign, a startup at Georgia State University using blockchain technology to securely file music-publishing documents. 

AlgenAir from the University of Maryland, a consumer product company focused on improving air quality, took second place and received $25,000.

CelluDot, a University of Arkansas student startup team focusing on eliminating herbicide drift, took third place overall and won the elevator pitch competition, walking away with $13,000 in prize money. 

Finishing fourth and winning $5,000 was OxyGen from Johns Hopkins University. OxyGen provides a portable oxygen concentrator to treat patients with chronic lung disease needing greater than 3 liters per minute of oxygen. 

VestaTech, a startup from the University of Missouri that aims to improve the last-mile delivery in the e-food industry, finished second in the elevator pitch and received a $2,000 prize.

The five teams taking home prize money: