Five University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM) faculty, students and alumni are among 11 teams receiving start-up grants from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) and the University of Wisconsin-Extension Center for Technology Commercialization (CTC). Each team will receive up to $25,000 each through the Ideadvance Seed Fund. Gov. Scott Walker announced the awards Aug. 22.
UWM grantees and their projects include:
- Jennifer Doering, associate professor of nursing, and her research team are working on an infant sleep pod, designed to keep sleeping babies safe.
- Pradeep Rohatgi, distinguished professor of engineering, is working on intelligent composites: stronger lighter, self-lubricating materials.
- Marco Lo Ricco, doctoral candidate in the Civil Engineering and Mechanics program;
- Greg Thomson of School of Architecture and Urban Planning; Dave Linz, Center for Technology Commercialization; and Rani El-Hajjar, Civil Engineering and Mechanics. They are engineering a cross-laminated wall system resistant to natural hazards such as earthquakes, hurricanes and tornadoes.
- Isopoint Technologies, a startup launched by UWM student Alex Francis, which is marketing an electrostatic “trap” that confines a single nanoscale particle so it can be analyzed through a microscope.
- UWM alumni Andrew McConville, William Barias, Kyle Forsberg and Max Felgenhauer established a method of student registration for universities known as Mesmer, a product of the startup company, MajorWeb.
These 11 new grantees bring the total to 23 teams that are receiving grants, Lean Start-Up training and business mentoring to help them develop strategic business models for ideas and technologies generated at UW campuses. As they identify markets for ideas, CTC releases funds for business resources such as legal assistance, market analysis and consulting fees.
“There is no question that innovation is taking place at UW campuses throughout the state,” Walker said. “One of the unique aspects of Ideadvance is that it provides students, faculty and staff at campuses outside of Madison with the training and additional resources they need to help to turn those great ideas into job-creating companies.”
“Ideadvance provides a forum for our UW entrepreneurs to explore ideas and overcome commercialization challenges,” said Mark Lange, executive director of the UW-Extension Division of Entrepreneurship and Economic Development. “Ideadvance helps them identify critical business questions and work through those challenges early. We see that happening among the first cohort of 12 grant recipients that we announced in May.”
Progress among those first recipients has included more than 620 customers and industry interviews to reduce risks and hone in on the best market opportunities. Some already have early adopters and are testing their products.
UW System and WEDC in February launched the $2 million seed fund to speed commercialization of ideas and technologies generated at UW campuses outside of UW-Madison.
The fund provides up to $75,000 in two stages to support entrepreneurs as they evaluate product or service ideas, explore key markets, validate demand and develop strategies for investment sources. Unlike most early-stage funding, Ideadvance encourages ideas from all disciplines, including the humanities, social sciences and liberal arts.
Ideadvance is part of WEDC’s efforts to expand collaboration with the UW System, business leaders and others throughout the state to remove the barriers to high-tech commercialization through its new Start-Seed-Scale (S3) initiative. Under the S3 umbrella, WEDC and its partners implement financial and operational assistance to address Wisconsin’s business startup and seed-funding challenges.
“Wisconsin’s university system has a strong reputation and rich history of developing new solutions to environmental, health care and business challenges,” said Lisa Johnson, WEDC’s vice president of Entrepreneurship & Innovation. “Unfortunately, not enough of these bright ideas are making it to the marketplace and those that do have difficulty in scaling their businesses. We’re hoping to close the gap from innovation to commercialization through programs like Ideadvance.
The latest round of awardees includes four students, six faculty and one staff member. Those who complete this first stage of Ideadvance activities will be eligible for stage-two funding starting in December, which offers grants up to $50,000.
In addition to the UWM teams, other awardees are:
- GolfLip, UW-Stout
- Healthier Youth, UW-Oshkosh
- Healthware, UW-Oshkosh
- Mobile Transit Solutions, UW-Parkside
- OptSolv, UW-Whitewater
- Refined BioProducts, UW-Stevens Point
Another round of stage one funding opens in October. Idella Yamben, New Idea Concierge for the grant program, invites potential applicants to contact her at email@example.com or 608-263-3315 for assistance in identifying resources to prepare a competitive proposal.