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Third Bridge Grant Receives Additional $120K to Fund Student Startups

Third Bridge Grant Receives Additional $120K to Fund Student Startups

The School of Engineering has been awarded an additional $120K in funding from CTNext for the Third Bridge Grant Program. The purpose is to provide UConn engineering and business student entrepreneurs with early-stage funding to support milestones that advance innovative ideas towards commercialization. Activities that are funded include demonstrating marketable value, developing a proof-of-concept, or broadening marketable reach.

The Third Bridge Grant program originated in 2013 and has provided $425K total to thirteen startups to date. The total grant amount is in excess of $700K. At its inception, grants were award to Ph.D. or advanced degree candidates enrolled in the ENGR 5300 “Experiential Technology Entrepreneurship I and II” course designed and delivered by Dr. Hadi Bozorgmanesh. The program has been expanded this year to include engineering and business student entrepreneurs who enroll in ENGR/MGMT 3500 or ENGR 5300. It’s the first required course for the upcoming Technology, Innovation & Entrepreneurship Minor.

For more information on the program, please check out thirdbridge.uconn.edu.

CTSBDC Advisor Receives “State Star” Award, Recognized Nationally

Matt Nemeth is Connecticut’s 2017 America’s Small Business Development Center (ASBDC) State Star recipient. The award is given annually to an outstanding SBDC advisor from each state.  Criteria include showing a strong commitment to small business success; making significant contributions to the state SBDC program; and being an exemplary performer.

“As a millennial and a bilingual speaker with restaurant and music experience, Matt adds diversity and strength to our team. It is my pleasure to honor his contributions to the CTSBDC and Connecticut’s business community with the State Star award,” says Emily Carter, State Director of the Connecticut Small Business Development Center (CTSBDC).

Matt and the other State Star recipients from around the country were recognized at the ASBDC annual conference in Nashville on September 5th, which included a show and reception at the Grand Ole Opry.

Matt credits the collaborative team of advisors at CTSBDC for the success he’s had working with his clients – “Being recognized as the 2017 CTSBDC State Star has been a great achievement that has to be credited to my amazing team.  I feel that without the support of such a knowledgeable, kind, and hardworking team I would not have the successes within my own client portfolio.”

Matt is a business advisor serving businesses throughout the Greater New London County. He has helped over 100 businesses start, secure financing, or strengthen their business since 2013.

Matt came to the CTSBDC with a lengthy professional background in the music industry as a musician and business owner.

Photo credit: American’s Small Business Development Center

Photo caption: Emily Carter, CTSBDC State Director (left) and Matt Nemeth, CTSBDC State Star (right)

UConn TIP Summer Fellowship Program

Jessica McBride, Office of the Vice President for Research

One day after national Start Up Day, 18 UConn students presented their experiences working with startup companies housed in UConn’s own Technology Incubation Program (TIP). The annual Summer Fellowship Research Day took place at the newly expanded TIP facility in Farmington at UConn Health.

For the past six years, academic departments at UConn and UConn Health have provided funding for UConn graduate and undergraduate students to gain research experience and be exposed to entrepreneurship with some of Connecticut’s high-potential technology startups. Students and startups engage in collaborations that offer students invaluable mentorships with experienced technology entrepreneurs and provide companies at UConn’s Technology Incubation Program with introductions to talented would-be employees.

Local entrepreneurs, faculty, university staff, an official from state government, family, and friends of the participants gathered at the Cell and Genome Sciences Building to hear what the students—and their mentors—learned over the course of the 10-week program.

All of the students, who come from both STEM and business fields, underscored the program’s uniqueness and the rare opportunity it provides young scientists and entrepreneurs.

“I had worked in scientific labs in the past, but this is my first experience with a startup,” said Joe Fetta, rising senior from the School of Nursing. “In a startup, you’re not only concerned with developing innovative science, you have to think about how to integrate your product into the market. It’s a whole new perspective.”

The contributions the students made varied depending on their backgrounds and the companies’ needs. Some students told the crowd important about milestones they helped their companies meet.

“This summer I helped Avitus Orthopaedics gain entry into several new markets. Our technology is now being used by surgeons throughout New England and the mid-Atlantic” said Enuma Ezeife, an MBA candidate from UConn’s School of Business.

Ezeife spent her summer immersed in sales and marketing for Avitus Orthopaedics, a medical device company developing novel instruments for minimally invasive surgery. According to Avitus CEO, Neil Shah, the startups who participate in the program gain as much as the fellows.

“We have been blown away by the quality of the students in the UConn-TIP Summer Immersion Fellowship program. After only a few weeks, we felt comfortable having Enuma meet with potential clients on her own. She really learned to speak their language,” said Neil Shah, Avitus CEO. “We’re still in the process of refining our sales strategy, and it became clear quickly that Enuma and the other UConn students from the program could really add value.”

Since founding director and UConn Health associate professor, Dr. Caroline Dealy, began the program, it has grown from just a few aspiring student scientist/entrepreneurs to a robust class of 18 UConn students in 12 different TIP startup companies. A faculty entrepreneur herself, Dealy is thrilled that the program has been able to grow and provide hands-on career training for STEM and non-STEM students.

“This year we had over 200 applicants for less than two dozen spots. There is clearly an appetite for this type of experiential fellowship,” said Dealy. “Now these students understand that entrepreneurship is how new cures, technologies, and devices are made available as products and services that benefit society. We are thrilled that the collaboration between UConn’s Technology Incubation Program, the Connecticut Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation at the School of Business, and countless departments are allowing the program to continue to grow and expand.”

According to Dr. Radenka Maric, UConn’s Vice President for Research, the fellowship program is a win-win for both UConn students and UConn-TIP companies.

“Regardless of a chosen career path, entrepreneurial skills and abilities are highly valued and in-demand in today’s economy,” Maric said. “And we know that many of our UConn-TIP companies ultimately hire the student fellows they meet through the program as full-time employees, which helps Connecticut retain the talented young workforce educated in the state.”

State Representative Derek Slap, feels this is a critical part of growing the state’s economy. When speaking to the students, Slap encouraged them to put their new skills to use in Connecticut.

“You are doing amazing things. You represent the growth we need,” said Slap. “Instead of looking outside of Connecticut for your next opportunity, help strengthen our cities, help strengthen our state. We in the state legislature want to know what you need to make that possible.”

According to Dr. Mostafa Analoui, UConn’s executive director of venture development, the UConn-TIP Summer Immersion Fellowship is one of many methods utilized to support the mutual interests of the University, emerging companies like those housed at UConn-TIP, and the state of Connecticut.

“UConn’s Technology Incubation Program is the only university-based technology business incubator in the state and we have a proven record of success. UConn-TIP has helped over 90 companies that have raised $54 million in grants and $135 million in equity and debt since 2004,” Analoui said. “UConn-TIP helps new technology ventures accelerate business and scientific progress while leveraging UConn’s resources. We are committed to helping Connecticut companies grow and training the next generation of scientists and entrepreneurs for the state.”

2017 UConn-TIP Summer Immersion Fellowship Participants

  • Jayant Kanchinadham, M.B.A. candidate, School of Business
    TIP Mentor Company: Shoreline Biome
  • Kseniia Poiarkina, M.B.A. candidate, School of Business
    TIP Mentor Company: CaroGen Corporation
  • Enuma Ezeife, M.B.A. candidate, School of Business
    TIP Mentor Company:  Avitus Orthopedics
  • Ethan Cope, M.S., Professional Science Masters’ program, College of Liberal Arts & Sciences; matriculating D.M.D candidate, School of Dental Medicine
    TIP Mentor Company:  Oral Fluid Dynamics
  • Vijay Kodumudi, M.D. candidate, School of Medicine
    TIP Mentor Company: CaroGen Corporation
  •  Alex Gojmerac, M.S., Professional Science Masters’ program, College of Liberal Arts & Sciences
    TIP Mentor Company: Azitra
  • Ciera Hunter, B.S. candidate, Physiology/Neurobiology, College Liberal Art Sciences
    TIP Mentor Company: Connecticut Children’s Medical Center Innovation Center
  • Brendan Clark, PharmD candidate, School of Pharmacy
    TIP Mentor Company: Reinesse
  • Joe Fetta, B.S. candidate, School of Nursing
    TIP Mentor Company: Reinesse
  • George Andrews, B.S. candidate, Biomedical Engineering, School of Engineering
    TIP Mentor Company:  Avitus Orthopedics
  • Rosalie Bordett, B.S., Biomedical Engineering, School of Engineering
    TIP Mentor Company:  Connecticut Children’s Medical Center Innovation Center
  • Rachel Crossley, B.S. candidate: Pathobiology, College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources
    TIP Mentor Company: Torigen Pharmaceuticals
  • Meghan Farrell, B.S. candidate, Communications, College of Liberal Arts & Sciences
    TIP Mentor Company: Diameter Health
  • Stephanie Gomez, B.S. candidate, Medical Lab Sciences, College of Agriculture, Health & Natural Resources
    TIP Mentor Company: Medisynergics
  • Alyssa Matz, B.S. candidate, Molecular & Cell Biology, College of Liberal Arts & Sciences
    TIP Mentor Company: Torigen Pharmaceuticals
  • Orvy Polanco, B.S. candidate, Mechanical Engineering, School of Engineering
    TIP Mentor Company: Innovation Cooperative 3D (IC3D)
  • Taylore Westbrook, B.S. candidate, Computer Science & Engineering, School of Engineering
    TIP Mentor Company: Biorasis
  • Hao Xu, 2nd year Pharmacy candidate, School of Pharmacy
    TIP Mentor Company: Biorasis

 

http://www.newbritainherald.com/NBH-New+Britain+News/296311/program-gives-college-students-realworld-experience

Student Engineers Monitoring System for Bridges

Kevin McMullen, a structural engineering Ph.D. student at UConn, has designed a bridge-safety monitoring device.

 

In the middle of a June night in 1983, a 100-foot span of the Mianus River Bridge in Greenwich, Conn., collapsed, plunging two cars and two tractor-trailers into the river 70 feet below.

Three people died, three were seriously injured, and diverted I-95 traffic snarled local streets for six months. Inspections revealed that an undetected fatigue crack caused the catastrophic bridge failure.

Kevin McMullen, a structural engineering Ph.D. student at UConn, is too young to remember that tragedy. But he has designed a bridge-safety monitoring device that might have prevented it. He’s hoping his company, NexGen Infrastructure, can revolutionize transportation safety.

Using force-sensing pads that continuously monitor bridges, the system can warn engineers about a bridge that is overstressed. The pads can be installed on a new bridge or one that is being repaired. The system doesn’t replace human inspection, but can help establish priorities in a nation where one in 10 bridges is structurally deficient.

“Our hope is that if something is going drastically wrong with a bridge, engineers would be alerted that the bridge needs to be inspected right away,’’ he said. “We are anticipating that the federal government and state departments of transportation will feel it is a worthwhile investment.’’

McMullen recently received a $40,000 grant from the UConn School of Engineering in partnership with Connecticut Innovations. This award is given to engineering students with promising technologies, to help them enter the marketplace. Ironically, the award is called the Third Bridge Grant.

“Not much has changed in infrastructure over the last few decades,’’ McMullen said. “More recently, new technologies are being developed for infrastructure and civil engineering. This push towards innovation makes me know I’m in the right field.’’

McMullen, who earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from UConn in 2015, smiles when asked how he developed his passion.

“As a kid, I built with Legos and loved creating things,’’ he said. “When I decided what to study at UConn, civil engineering was the choice for me. And for some reason, I’ve just always loved bridges.’’

He is working on a Ph.D. thesis about a new, streamlined bridge-repair process that would be more cost-effective and minimize traffic disruptions.

“Many people surrounding me at UConn, including Professor Hadi Bozorgmanesh, who teaches an entrepreneurship program for graduate students, and my adviser, Professor Arash Zaghi, have really pushed innovation and got me thinking out of the box,’’ said McMullen.

“UConn has been very instrumental in getting my company off the ground. The Third Bridge grant I was awarded is helping me to start my company and bridge ‘the valley of death,’ so when I leave UConn, I can hit the ground running.’’

 

 

 

 

Claire Hall

Link to original article: http://today.uconn.edu/2017/05/engineering-student-devises-monitoring-system-bridges/

Spring 2017 UConn IDEA Grant Award Recipients

Congratulations to the 29 UConn undergraduates who have been awarded UConn IDEA Grants! 19 of the award recipients will be completing individual projects, and 10 will be working on collaborative group projects.
The award recipients represent a variety of disciplines, from nursing to elementary education, animal science to biomedical engineering. They will work on designing prototypes and software systems; producing short films, graphic novels, and animations; developing educational programs; and conducting independent research.
Special thanks to the faculty and staff that supported student applications to the UConn IDEA Grant and to those who will be mentoring the award recipients as they complete their projects.

See the full list of winners here.

HackUConn 2017

The UConn Entrepreneurship and Innovation Society hosted the second annual HackUConn event on March 24th into the 25th in NextGen 012.  A hackathon is an event that promotes a collaborative effort among teams to innovate and invent.  The HackUConn event brought together motivated students, industry sponsors, and experienced mentors to encourage networking, creativity, and problem solving in a fast-paced team-oriented environment.

The theme this year was Living with Allergies: Reimagining the Solution.  Student teams had the opportunity to pitch their ideas to a panel of industry experts at the conclusion of the event.  The event was sponsored by The KeepSmilin4Abbie Foundation, Updike, Kelly & Spellacy, P.C, the Connecticut Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Consortium, First Year Programs and Learning Communities, and Residential Life.

Coverage of the event included The Daily Campus (http://dailycampus.com/stories/2017/3/27/innovation-and-creativity-at-second-annual-hackuconn) and UConn Today (http://today.uconn.edu/2017/03/student-innovators-create-solutions-allergies).

New UConn Startup Creates Faster, Cheaper Blood Test

Savas Tasoglu, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, left, and Stephanie Knowlton, a graduate student, with a device to analyze blood for sickle cell disease. The pair later created a more robust blood testing mechanism. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)
Savas Tasoglu, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, left, and Stephanie Knowlton, a graduate student, with a device to analyze blood for sickle cell disease. The pair later created a more robust blood testing mechanism. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)

Blood tests are used to identify a number of blood disorders, but the testing process can take several days or a week before the results are available, since the sample is sent to a central testing location. A UConn startup could make the process of testing blood much quicker with a handheld device that can give results in a matter of moments.

“Rather than sending a sample to a lab and waiting three days to find out if you have a disease or another malady, our device will give you on-site and portable results right away,” said Stephanie Knowlton.

Knowlton, a graduate student in biomedical engineering, works with Savas Tasoglu, an assistant professor of Mechanical Engineering and Biomedical Engineering, in his lab. The two partnered to create mBiotics, a company that is developing a cost effective, portable device to scan for a variety of medical conditions.

“The goal is for it to be affordable to diagnose and monitor conditions such as sickle cell disease in a doctor’s office rather than go offsite,” Tasoglu said. “Right now, most of the existing equipment is too large and expensive for a doctor’s office; it has to be kept in a centralized location, which takes time to work with. We want to speed that process up.”

Knowlton said they want the price tag for the device to be around $200 to $300.

the standalone device that Knowlton and Tasoglu made. (Photo courtesy of Tasoglu Labs)
The standalone device that Knowlton and Tasoglu made. (Photo courtesy of Tasoglu Labs)

The device uses magnetophoresis- motion induced by a magnetic field- to test for a variety of blood disorders. The blood cells are levitated within a magnetic field, and the density distribution of the cells is used to test for disorders like sickle cell disease by looking at the way the cells levitate. The device can be operated with very basic training.

The blood testing technology was developed at the Tasoglu Lab by Tasoglu, Knowlton and Bekir Yenilmez, a post-doctorate researcher. Tasoglu received a 2015 American Heart Association Scientist Development Award for developing a cellphone diagnostic and monitoring device for sickle cell disease, a predecessor of this product.

“This device is totally self-contained- a standalone camera and screen that works with a Raspberry Pi module to carry out the imaging and analysis, all housed in a 3D printed case,” Knowlton said. Raspberry Pis are a series of low cost, credit card sized computers.

Knowlton and Tasoglu received support from UConn’s Third Bridge Grant, which provides startup funding for new student-developed startups with promising technologies. The Third Bridge Grant is a member of the UConn Entrepreneurship and Innovation Consortium. To be eligible for the grant, a grad student must complete the Experiential Tech Entrepreneurship Course, which encourages and develops the necessary skills for engineering graduate and post doc students to create new companies and become entrepreneurs in order to commercialize their research. Professor of Practice Hadi Bozorgmanesh developed and teaches the Experiential Tech course.

“This course is about taking the amazing research our UConn engineers are doing and creating tangible products that can benefit people across Connecticut and the world,” Bozorgmanesh said.

Knowlton said she was very appreciative of the support from the Consortium.

“We’re very fortunate to have access to the Third Bridge funding to help turn our engineering idea into something that could help people in the real world,” Knowlton said.

Knowlton and Tasoglu are using the Third Bridge Grant to finalize the prototype of their device and get input from practicing doctors using the device alongside existing lab work mechanisms.

“We’re looking for their insight on questions such as ‘How does it compare to lab testing?’ and ‘What features and capabilities in the device would make your job is easier?’” Tasoglu said.

UConn Grad Students Working To Improve Bridge Monitoring

NextGen Infrastructure has recently been highlighted in the Hartford Business Journal, see the article here.

 

LexiKevin2017-4 - Scaled

A new company, created by a pair of UConn graduate students, is developing an innovative technique using sensors to monitor the performance of bridges. The Department of Transportation monitors key aspects of a bridge’s health to make sure they remain safe.

Civil engineering graduate students Kevin McMullen and Alexandra Hain are improving on the current methods for bridge monitoring, which are expensive and time consuming. McMullen’s company, NexGen Infrastructure, is developing force sensing pads which can be built into structural bridge bearings to perform the monitoring. NexGen Infrastructure received a Third Bridge Grant for financial support to develop a prototype and fine tune their product. McMullen said that the company’s force sensing pads can provide key data faster than current methods.

“One benefit is that you can determine if a bridge is overstressed, if the weight is higher than it was designed for,” McMullen said.

By inserting NexGen’s sensors into the bridge infrastructure, McMullen and Hain are able to measure how well a bridge is performing over the lifetime of the sensors. This can include ensuring that a new bridge functions as intended, measuring how a bridge’s performance changes over time, and even weighing trucks that go over the bridge, which could make weigh stations unnecessary.

LexiKevin2017-3 - ScaledThe sensors can be inserted during new construction or when a bridge is being repaired. Many of the bridges in the United States have reached or exceeded their expected life cycle. According to Hain, “Repairs are often done to these bridges to extend their life span. A perfect time to insert these pads is when the bearing is being replaced.”

NexGen Infrastructure grew out of an Experiential Tech Entrepreneurship Course that McMullen and Hain took, which encourages and develops the necessary skills for engineering grad students to become entrepreneurs and create startups. McMullen, along with Assistant Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering Arash Zaghi, had done a research project with Enflo Corporation, which manufacturers Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), a Teflon-like material used in bridge bearing pads. The sensor pads were created to improve the marketability of Enflo’s PTFE bearing pads.

During the entrepreneurship course, McMullen worked with Hain to develop the bridge pads. Zaghi, their faculty advisor, acts as the director of research development for the company.

Students who take the course are qualified to pitch for the Third Bridge Grant, a program that provides financial support for UConn startups from engineering graduate students. The Third Bridge Grant is a member of the UConn Entrepreneurship and Innovation Consortium.

McMullen is using the funding to work with industry partners to make the sensor pads as effective as possible. UConn Engineering Professor of Practice Hadi Bozorgmanesh teaches the entrepreneurship class, and he partnered with Connecticut Innovations to establish the Third Bridge Grants. He said that these programs are part of a concerted effort to turn engineers into entrepreneurs.

“We’re trying to get science and engineering students to convert their inventions into innovations that result in new products and services. We want them to understand the business world, and to think strategically with business goals in mind,” said Bozorgmanesh.

While working to develop NexGen into a viable company, Hain decided that she wanted to branch off and develop a separate company. Advanced Column Solutions develops durable, resilient and cost-effective alternatives to conventional bridge columns. A Third Bridge Grant has been awarded to the company which Hain will use to advance the development and marketability of the innovative column system.

Psst — I’ve Got A Secret

Many new small business start-ups are under the misapprehension that their idea, concept, approach – the thing that gets them up in the morning and keeps them motivated to make a change in the world – must be protected by a patent, a trademark, a copyright, or some combination of the above, as a threshold to moving forward.  There is no doubt that exploring these issues early on is a good idea on the road to starting a business.  For example, you would want to know if your improved mousetrap is already being developed by somebody else.  However, there is another alternative that can, in some instances, provide a level of protection to the start-up without the necessity of incurring legal fees.  In May of 2016, President Obama signed into law the Defense of Trade Secrets Act (DTSA).  A trade secret is confidential, commercially valuable information that provides its owner with a competitive advantage.  Prior to enactment of the DTSA, theft of trade secret claims could only be brought in state courts, and results from state to state could be inconsistent and unpredictable.  Now, federal courts may be available to protect these valuable intellectual property assets.

Typically, a small business owner may want to consider using trade secret protection for information that leaves no public “footprint” – for example, a manufacturing process that cannot be reverse engineered.  In such circumstances, maintaining the process as a trade secret may be preferable to patent protection – a patent reveals all aspects of the process to the public and is only available for a limited period of time.  Trade secrets, on the other hand, provide no public information and in theory can extend in perpetuity.

So be sure to consider the best way to protect your secrets.  In our next article we will consider how to protect your trade secrets – there are of course rules about that!

Linda Gebauer

Director, UConn IP Law Clinic