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.
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 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.
NextGen Infrastructure has recently been highlighted in the Hartford Business Journal, see the article here.
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.
The 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.
VentureWell’s E-Team program provides early-stage funding of up to $25,000 and cultivates opportunities for student STEM inventors and innovators to move ideas out of the lab and into the market.
The multi-stage program provides grant funding, immersive workshops, and coaching to help student teams realize their projects’ full commercial potential.
The application deadline to participate in the spring cohort is January 25.
Inventions and innovations of successful E-Teams have included:
· Biomedical devices, health care solutions, or health-based technologies
· Clean technologies, clean energy or sustainable materials
· Technologies for low-resource settings (U.S. and/or globally) that address poverty and basic human needs such as affordable energy, clean water, health and medical devices, agriculture, IT and other income-generating tools
Learn about our past E-Team grantees and their innovations here.
Detailed guidelines are here and FAQ here.
As an undergraduate at Stanford with all the hot consumer startups sprouting up around us, my friends and I would always joke that we knew we had become boring computer scientists if we ended up working an enterprise company. To be fair, I was at Stanford when Facebook was growing rapidly, everyone was switching over to Dropbox, and Twitter was just starting to get traction with celebrities. Consumer companies just seemed so much cooler.
Fast forward six years, I’m now a 5th year PhD student at MIT in computer security, focusing on how to practically apply cryptography to enterprise systems that deal with big data. During the school year, I’m on the team of Roughdraft Ventures, focusing on security and enterprise companies, and during the summer, I co-founded and continue to run a summer program with Highland Capital for early stage cybersecurity startups called Cybersecurity Factory, where we help founders penetrate the security enterprise market. I also consult with various companies on their security strategy. Having worked with numerous first-time enterprise founders, of which many were students, I learned a few important lessons on starting an enterprise company.
The UConn School of Law Intellectual Property and Entrepreneurship Law Clinic (“IP Law Clinic”) is pleased to announce the issuance of US Patent No. 9357912 to Dr. Yan Zhang, of Vernon, Connecticut. Dr. Zhang has been a client of the IP Law Clinic for several years. During this time period, UConn law students working under the supervision of IP Law Clinic Faculty, assisted Dr. Zhang in preparing, filing and prosecuting his patent application before the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”).
The patent deals with a noninvasive apparatus and method for evaluating certain biomechanical properties of eye tissue.
“I was very pleased with the cooperation, effort and attention to detail provided by the students and faculty at the IP Law Clinic. An issued patent can open many doors for a new business endeavor” said Dr. Zhang.
The IP Law Clinic provides patent, trademark and copyright services to Connecticut’s innovators and entrepreneurs as part of an instructional and experiential learning program. Services are provided by UConn law students under the supervision of experienced intellectual property attorneys who are faculty members. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Congratulations to the 35 UConn undergraduates who have been awarded UConn IDEA Grants in the spring 2016 funding cycle!
22 of the award recipients will be completing individual projects, and 13 will be working on collaborative group projects. The award recipients represent a variety of disciplines, from printmaking to biomedical engineering, horticulture to political science. They will work on launching new ventures; developing art exhibitions, puppet shows, YouTube series, and television pilots; and collaborating with community organizations.
Click here to view the full list of spring 2016 UConn IDEA Grant award recipients.
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. We would also like to thank the faculty and staff from around the University who served as reviewers.
The UConn IDEA Grant program awards funding to support self-designed projects including artistic endeavors, community service initiatives, traditional research projects, entrepreneurial ventures, and other creative and innovative projects. Undergraduates in all majors at all UConn campuses can apply. Applications are accepted twice per year from individuals and from small groups who plan to work collaboratively on a project.
The next application deadline will be in December 2016.