Transforming innovative UW System ideas into businesses: Ideadvance Seed Fund awards $200K

MADISON – Up to $200,000 in grants will be awarded to five small businesses in the latest round of awards in the Ideadvance program fostering the entrepreneurship ecosystem across Wisconsin.

 is a rigorous two-stage process of seed funding and mentoring to move innovative ideas forward into feasible businesses. It is open to UW System staff, faculty, students and alumni at all campuses except UW-Madison. Ideadvance awardees must demonstrate significant progress toward a scalable, profitable business model in order to receive increments of Ideadvance seed funds.

Stage 1 teams are eligible for up to $25,000, earned by meeting goals over a six-month period of mentorship and work focused on customer validation.

The 2017 awardees are:

  • Forsythe & Storms Technologies of Oak Creek, which devised an innovative, less-lethal self-defense device for law enforcement and corrections.
  • VetNEX of River Falls, which assists veterans and advocates in the VA Service Connected Disability Claims process by providing validated medical documents to support the link to service.

Stage 2 companies are eligible for up to $50,000 in matching funds within a 12-month period by capturing follow-on funding and developing and executing a customer acquisition strategy.

This year’s awardees are:

  • High 5 Academics of Oshkosh, which developed TTL, a cloud-based series of integrated tools helping K-8 school principals collaborate with literacy teachers to improve mastery of their craft.
  • Pivot Interactives of River Falls, which makes innovative educational activities that teach scientific reasoning and critical thinking skills essential to today’s learners through interacting with a customizable video interface design.
  • Northern Star Fire of Eau Claire, which developed an eight-directional compass to aid firefighters through disorienting conditions.

“We’re allocating resources and making investments in companies that have a positive impact on the economies and communities of Wisconsin,” said Dr. Idella Yamben, program manager. “We also aim to train entrepreneurs in a Lean Startup approach to building their business.  Ideadvance’s performance-based funding supports innovative and risky ideas, while also saving money should the entrepreneur pivot away from ideas that no longer make business sense.”

Since 2014, Ideadvance, a partnership between the UW-Extension’s Center for Technology Commercialization (CTC) and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC), has awarded $1.5 million in grants. The impact of these grants has resulted in $2.65 million in additional funding allocated to the awardees, as of February 2017. Ideadvance is part of the WEDC’s S3 program which is working to further incorporate start-ups by providing operational and financial assistance to aid in navigating commercialization barriers.

Interest in the program was strong in 2017. Stage 1 saw applications rise to 23, up from 14 last year and its most since launching in 2014. Stage 2 drew seven applications, and all three awardees had already completed Stage 1, though it is not a requirement.

This year was the first time that Ideadvance was opened to UW System alumni.

Twenty-year veteran firefighter Captain Jeff Dykes is a 2017 recipient of Stage 2 funding.  Dykes’ product, The Northern Star, is a compass that attaches to a firefighter’s mask and highlights the direction a firefighter is facing when activated.

“Ideadvance has provided Northern Star Fire with both the funding and resources to successfully launch our company. We worked the lean business canvas model through Stage 1 and were able learn the key components to make our company a success,” Dykes said.

While the next round of applications won’t be open until spring 2018, Yamben encourages innovators to act now on their inspiration and help improve their eligibility for an Ideadvance application. “It’s never too early to think about your idea and pull in a team to start working.”

“By helping entrepreneurs turn their ideas into new businesses, Ideadvance is a high-impact component of Wisconsin’s innovation climate,” said Aaron Hagar, WEDC’s vice president of entrepreneurship and innovation and a member of the Ideadvance selection committee. “Through the collaboration and resources of WEDC and the UW System, we’re committed to help these young companies successfully launch and grow in Wisconsin.”

 

About The Center for Technology Commercialization

The Center for Technology Commercialization is a unit in the University of Wisconsin-Extension’s Division for Business & Entrepreneurship. CTC provides one-on-one expert consulting to early-stage emerging technology businesses throughout Wisconsin. CTC has collaborated in acquiring more than $100 million in federal and other funding for clients. Learn more at ; follow on Twitter.

About The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) leads economic development efforts for the state by advancing and maximizing opportunities in Wisconsin for businesses, communities and people to thrive in a globally competitive environment. Working with more than 600 regional and local partners, WEDC develops and delivers solutions representative of a highly responsive and coordinated economic development network. Learn more at ; follow on Twitter.

SBA’s Small Business Innovation National Road Tour is coming to Wisconsin

 MADISON – The SBIR Road Tour is coming to Wisconsin on July 18, giving small businesses the coveted opportunity to learn more about America’s largest seed fund for research and development. 

This stop, part of the U.S. Small Business Administration’s 11-state, 15-city road tour, will allow entrepreneurs and small technology firms to connect directly with federal program managers. Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs are responsible for $2.5 billion annually in non-dilutive funding, primarily in the STEM fields. 

“The last two years of the SBA Road Tour have been a huge success, and we’ve engaged thousands of small innovative firms across the nation, so we are excited to bring back the tour for a third year,” said John Williams, SBA Director of Innovation and Technology.  

The SBA is dedicated to supporting America’s entrepreneurs, and this tour reflects the agency’s commitment to ensuring innovators are aware of the resources that can help them turn a big idea into another great American success story. This year’s SBIR Road Tour, “Seeding America’s Future Innovations,” is a national outreach effort targeting advanced technology communities.  

The Madison stop, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. July 18 at the Park Hotel on Capitol Square, will be hosted by UW-Extension’s

"This is the first time the tour is stopping here, and we are excited for companies in Wisconsin and the Midwest to have this rare chance to meet face-to-face with the people who make the funding decisions," said Todd Strother, CTC Senior Technology Consultant. 

The National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy, the Department of Defense and the National Institutes of Health are among the agencies participating in the tour. 

The highly competitive SBIR/STTR programs together account for more than 150,000 awards totaling approximately $40 billion. These awards have helped U.S. innovators advance new technologies that help make the U.S. more globally competitive. The SBIR/STTR programs have provided seed funding to companies including Qualcomm, iRobot, Symantec and Genzyme.  

Cost for the daylong Madison event is $35 ($25 for students). To register, go to . Contact Margaret Ramey, CTC Outreach Specialist, at or 414-227-3165 if you have any questions. 

For more on the tour, go to . For more information about SBIR/STTR programs, visit

A related national opportunity will be coming to Wisconsin in the fall: The Health and Human Sciences National SBIR/STTR Conference will be Nov. 7-9 at the Hilton Milwaukee City Center. Learn more about this premiere biomedical conference at .

 

About the U.S. Small Business Administration

The (SBA) was created in 1953 and since January 13, 2012, has served as a Cabinet-level agency of the federal government to aid, counsel, assist and protect the interests of small business concerns, to preserve free competitive enterprise and to maintain and strengthen the overall economy of our nation.  The SBA helps Americans start, build and grow businesses.  Through an extensive network of field offices and partnerships with public and private organizations, the SBA delivers its services to people throughout the United States, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Guam.

To learn more, visit

 

About the Center for Technology Commercialization

The Center for Technology Commercialization is a unit in the University of Wisconsin-Extension’s Division for Business and Entrepreneurship. CTC provides one-on-one expert consulting to early-stage emerging technology businesses throughout Wisconsin. CTC has collaborated in acquiring more than $100 million in federal and other funding for clients. Learn more at www.wisconsinctc.org; follow on Twitter.

Ideadvance Seed Fund now open to many UW System alumni

MADISON, Wis. – Innovators from across the UW System with a business idea that could contribute to Wisconsin’s “knowledge economy” are invited to apply for the Ideadvance program.

New this year: Beginning with the April 28 deadline, Ideadvance will accept applications from graduates of any UW System campus except UW-Madison. The program combines early-stage grant funding with business mentoring for UW System part-time or full-time staff, faculty, students and alumni from all campuses except UW-Madison. Those affiliated with UW-Madison are allowed to contribute as team members on eligible projects, just not as primary clients.

Ideadvance, launched in 2014, has awarded grants to 48 Stage 1 teams, of which 13 teams have been awarded Stage 2 funding. Stage 1, with funding up to $25,000, focuses on achieving commercialization milestones to reduce risk and determine need in the marketplace to solve a problem. Stage 2, with follow-on funding up to $50,000, helps a select few to advance their business models to effectively deliver customer solutions and attract investors.

The Ideadvance program promotes learning as well as support for an innovative idea and business model. The grant dollars awarded to teams are only received after they demonstrate key learnings towards their commercialization goals.

“We try to simulate the real world startup environment for these entrepreneurs,” Center of Technology Commercialization Associate Director Dave Linz said. “We want them to ‘get out of the building’ and test their ideas and business models in the marketplace.”

Alana Platt, founder of , a web-based fund-raising tool for schools, valued not only the funding to create jobs and drive revenue but also the mentorship of the program.

 “We wouldn’t be where we are today without Ideadvance,” Pruitt said. “You don’t learn entrepreneurship in Computer Science.”

Awards are determined by an Investment Committee with representatives from UW System, WiSys Technology Foundation, UW-Extension, Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation and an entrepreneur affiliated with an eligible UW campus. The committee selects competitive proposals with a compelling case for a significant solution to a market problem and a dedicated team focused on learning about risks to their business model. The committee also focuses on the skills of the team and how well-prepared they are to tackle this learning.

Although high-tech ideas are welcome, entrepreneurs do not need to present a biotech or IT technology to receive an Ideadvance grant. The types of eligible businesses are very broad, including ideas in agriculture, manufacturing, music production, textiles, art or business. The only restrictions are that the business cannot be real estate, direct consumer retail or a hospitality business, including restaurants.

Ideadvance is part of WEDC’s efforts to expand collaboration with the UW System, business leaders and others throughout the state. Through their special S3 initiative, WEDC is working to remove commercialization barriers entrepreneurs face by providing financial and operational assistance that address business startup and seed-funding challenges.  

“Ideadvance is an important resource for turning new ideas coming out of the UW campuses into businesses,” said Aaron Hagar, vice president of entrepreneurship and innovation for WEDC. “Ideadvance helps ensure that not only do the individual businesses receive the support they need at the earliest stages, but that the communities where these businesses are located can start to build stronger networks and a more robust entrepreneurial environment.”

To apply, go to . For more details or questions, contact Idella Yamben, New Idea Concierge, , 608-263-3315.

 

About The Center for Technology Commercialization

The Center for Technology Commercialization is a unit in the University of Wisconsin-Extension’s Division for Business & Entrepreneurship. CTC provides one-on-one expert consulting to early-stage emerging technology businesses throughout Wisconsin. CTC has collaborated in acquiring more than $100 million in federal and other funding for clients. Learn more at ; follow on Twitter.

About The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) leads economic development efforts for the state by advancing and maximizing opportunities in Wisconsin for businesses, communities and people to thrive in a globally competitive environment. Working with more than 600 regional and local partners, WEDC develops and delivers solutions representative of a highly responsive and coordinated economic development network. Learn more at ; follow on Twitter.

$525,000 in state matching grants to boost 7 high-tech small businesses

MADISON – Seven small high-tech businesses in Wisconsin will receive up to $75,000 each to commercialize their innovations, thanks to the SBIR Advance program’s latest round of funding.

The state matching grant program provides assistance to companies in the process of completing a project in the .

This is the eighth round of SBIR Advance funding since this collaboration by the and the ) began in 2014. Since then, more than $3.6 million has been awarded to 37 companies throughout the state. Those businesses reported hiring more than 150 employees and obtaining $11.5 million in additional capital since receiving the grants.

The recipients are:

of Madison, which is developing tools and processes for building flexible hybrid electronic and photonic devices; 

of Pewaukee, which is developing low-cost, high-efficiency window glass;

of Madison, which specializes in the metabolic engineering of nonconventional yeasts to produce renewable fuels and other higher-value products;

of Madison, which supplies pancreatic cells for drug research and is developing a therapeutic treatment for diabetes;

of Madison, which transforms woodchips and other biomass into renewable chemicals and advanced materials;

of Madison, which is pioneering development of safe, easy-to-use antimicrobials and disinfectants to destroy bacterial pathogens causing crop loss in agriculture and human infectious diseases; and

of Madison, which is developing next-generation electric motors to improve performance, increase energy efficiency and reduce costs.

The U.S. government created SBIR/STTR programs to stimulate domestic high-tech innovation, providing $2.5 billion in federal research funding each year. Because those funds cannot be used for commercialization activities, the SBIR Advance program fills the gap. Funds can be used to pursue market research, customer validation, intellectual property work or other areas that speed commercialization. SBIR Advance grant recipients receive CTC staff support available throughout the commercialization process, including Lean Startup training, business plan review and other consulting.

“The interest and support for SBIR Advance continue to be strong,” said Dr. Todd Strother, who manages the program. “The investment in these early-stage companies are starting to see returns as the funded companies are working on commercialization and sales. This particular round of applicants was competitive; our reviewers had the difficult task of selecting from many solid proposals.”

For more details on the SBIR Advance program, visit or contact Strother at .

"We often see companies receiving SBIR grants that have made great progress on the technical side but have critical business development milestones they simply don’t have a way to fund,” said Aaron Hagar, vice president of Entrepreneurship and Innovation for WEDC. “Potential investors and customers want to see progress beyond what the federal grants can provide, and SBIR Advance helps to close that critical gap.”

SBIR Advance is part of a Start-Seed-Scale (S3) initiative WEDC is pursuing with the help of the UW System and other business leaders throughout the state to remove barriers to high-tech commercialization. Under the S3 umbrella, WEDC and its economic development partners are implementing financial and operational assistance programs designed specifically to address Wisconsin’s business startup and seed-funding challenges. Another S3 collaborative effort between WEDC and the UW System is the Ideadvance Seed Fund, also managed by UW-Extension’s CTC. Selected SBIR Advance participants undergo Ideadvance Lean Startup training that is modified to assist with their SBIR Phase II applications.

 

About The Center for Technology Commercialization

The Center for Technology Commercialization is a unit in the University of Wisconsin-Extension’s Division for Business and Entrepreneurship. CTC provides one-on-one expert consulting to early-stage emerging technology businesses throughout Wisconsin. CTC has collaborated in acquiring more than $100 million in federal and other funding for clients. Learn more at ; follow on Twitter.

 

About The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) leads economic development efforts for the state by advancing and maximizing opportunities in Wisconsin for businesses, communities and people to thrive in a globally competitive environment. Working with more than 600 regional and local partners, WEDC develops and delivers solutions representative of a highly responsive and coordinated economic development network. Learn more at http://inwisconsin.com; follow on Twitter.

Tags: 

New course teaches how to make a business case for innovation

MADISON – A new quick course on business development skills for graduate students and early-career scientists is available through the Center for Technology Commercialization.

SBIR Ready is a free month-long program that teaches students how to evaluate an innovative technology idea from multiple angles to make a business case. Upon completion of four 3-hour hands-on workshops, students may take the next step in applying for federal Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)/Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs.

The represent the nation’s largest source of early-stage research and development funding for small businesses. They are administered by the U.S. Small Business Administration in collaboration with 11 federal agencies, who collectively support more than $2.5 billion in funding.

SBIR Ready covers Lean Startup methodology and offers practical experience in such business concepts as market research, planning and budgeting. It also previews the SBIR application process.

Two cohorts are planned so far for 2017: 1. March: Deadline to apply is Feb. 15. Classes will take place from 2 to 5 p.m. Wednesdays, March 8, 15, 22 and 29, concurrently in Milwaukee and Madison; more details to be announced later. 2. August: Deadline to apply is June 30.

“Practicing the concepts of business development in the SBIR framework is a really great combination -- and could result in over $1 million in grants to grow your career and new business,” says Robert Meyer, Ph.D., UW-Madison Professor Emeritus and OptSolv CEO.

Interested individuals can apply for SBIR Ready as an individual or a team at . The webpage also includes a link to the syllabus and additional information.

Contact Outreach Specialist Margaret Ramey for more information at or 414-227-3165.

About The Center for Technology Commercialization

The Center for Technology Commercialization is a unit in the University of Wisconsin-Extension’s Division for Business and Entrepreneurship. CTC provides one-on-one expert consulting to early-stage emerging technology businesses throughout Wisconsin. With offices in Madison and Milwaukee but working all across the state, CTC has collaborated in acquiring more than $100 million in federal and other funding for clients.

NIH SBIR/STTR Myths Busted

The CTC Team attended the 2016 NIH SBIR/STTR Conference in Orlando this November.  A "Myths Busting" break out session covered common questions and misgivings associated with NIH SBIR/STTR. 

  1. Small program (budget) = low success rate.  .  Each NIH institute has its own budget and own interests.If you have an idea that fits the interests of an institute, APPLY!
  2. If you change an institute within NIH it goes to a new review panel.  .  NIH tries to match up past reviewers to keep review consistent.
  3. Do you think NIH didn’t like your technology because of a bad peer review?  .  Peer review counts, but isn’t everything.  If it’s a good technology with a clearly assembled proposal, your technology will be discussed.
  4. Your budget is scoreable and the smaller it is the more likely to be funded.  .
  5. Applying by contract method typically yields a lower award rate.  .  Actually the award rate is slightly higher.
  6. CDC is NOT an institute within the NIH.  .  It is a separate agency within HHS (The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services).
  7. CDC does participate in STTR.  .  The CDC has a small budget of 9 Million for SBIR, but no budget for STTR.  Last year the CDC did not deplete it’s SBIR budget.  Apply small!

If you have questions about SBIR/STTR, NIH or any other agency, contact y or your CTC contact.

Dave Linz wins Tibbetts Award from the Small Business Administration

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Dave Linz, Associate Director for the Center for Technology Commercialization, has earned a prestigious award from the U.S. Small Business Administration for achieving significant economic impact in advancing small technology businesses.

Linz was among five individuals and 37 small businesses honored during a White House ceremony Jan. 10 with Tibbetts Awards for driving innovation and creating jobs through the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs.

Working for the CTC and its predecessor since 2005, Linz has provided technical, marketing, business planning, product development, and financing assistance to more than 600 entrepreneurs in technology and manufacturing businesses across Wisconsin.

“Dave Linz sits atop my list as the most effective and influential business educator/consultant I have had the pleasure to work with,” said Mark Lange, Executive Director of the University of Wisconsin-Extension’s Division of Business & Entrepreneurship, which operates the CTC. “He has an easygoing nature and ability to connect with all types of people from scientists, aspiring business owners and CEOs to community stakeholders, chancellors and economic developers.”

“I am honored and gratified to have this recognition from my colleagues and the SBA,” Linz said. “I look at this as a CTC award and recognition for the whole team, present and past, for all their great work and contributions to Wisconsin's tech businesses. It is my good fortune to work with such an amazing team at CTC, and our wonderful partners." 

The represent the nation's largest source of early stage research and development funding for small businesses. The programs are administered by the SBA in collaboration with 11 federal agencies, who collectively supported more than $2.5 billion in funding.

Linz doesn’t just help companies craft successful SBIR/STTR funding proposals. He teaches scientists how to think like entrepreneurs through the use of Lean Startup best practices that validate business models and understand the market for their products.

Atif Hashmi, CEO of Thalchemy Corp., which develops sensor processing for smartphones, wearables and apps, credits Linz with helping define their customer and, prepare thoroughly for competitive grant applications and follow up that funding with a matching state grant. “Overall, Dave’s guidance has been instrumental in shaping this company.”

In his career, Linz has:

  • Generated nearly $23 million in capital investment.
  • Fostered over 60 new jobs in manufacturing, healthcare, IT, agriculture and energy by helping clients focus on customer needs.    
  • Created SBIR Advance, a state matching fund that has provided 42 grants to Wisconsin SBIR/STTR award recipients.
  • Formed alliances with multiple Milwaukee business development organizations and helped bring the 2017 Health and Human Services SBIR Conference to Milwaukee.
  • Helped launch Ideadvance Seed Fund, combining early-stage grant funding with business mentoring to develop the innovative ideas and potential businesses from UW System faculty, staff and student entrepreneurs.

Most recently, Linz has worked with the CTC team to create a new program called SBIR Ready, which widens the pipeline for SBIR applications by training early-stage scientists and engineers, including those from underrepresented populations.

“He's not only made it better in the state of Wisconsin. He's improved the world because we now have those innovations in the marketplace," said Lisa Johnson, CEO of Bioforward.

Linz earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemical Engineering and a Master of Science degree in Nuclear Engineering from the University of Arizona and Master of Business Administration from Webster University.

About The Center for Technology Commercialization

The Center for Technology Commercialization is a unit in the University of Wisconsin-Extension’s Division for Business and Entrepreneurship. CTC provides one-on-one expert consulting to early-stage emerging technology businesses throughout Wisconsin. With offices in Madison and Milwaukee but working all across the state, CTC has collaborated in acquiring more than $100 million in federal and other funding for clients.

About the Small Business Administration

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) was created in 1953 and since 2012 has served as a Cabinet-level agency of the federal government to aid, counsel, assist and protect the interests of small business concerns, to preserve free competitive enterprise and to maintain and strengthen the overall economy of our nation. The SBA helps Americans start, build and grow businesses.

About the Tibbetts Awards

The Tibbetts Award is named in honor of the late Roland Tibbetts, who was instrumental in developing the SBIR/STTR programs through a career-long dedication to small business entrepreneurship, applied research and technological breakthroughs. See all the SBA winners here: .

 

Top 10 Do's and Don'ts of Phase 1 SBIR Proposal Writing

The CTC Team attended the 2016 NIH SBIR/STTR Conference in Orlando this November.  We will be highlighting some of the interesting facts learned and sessions that we attended during the conference.  First up, Top 10 Do's and Dont's.  This was a FUN yet informative session given by Lisa Kurek, BBCetc.  She was full of energy, as always, and had anecdote after anecdote exemplifying the "duh" moments in SBIR proposal writing.  See below for her Top 10 Do's and Don'ts for Phase I Proposal writing.

Notes from the 2016 NIH SBIR/STTR Conference. Session Top 10 Do's and Don'ts, Presented by

1. DON’T write a RO1.

    DO plan for and tell the whole story. Include a commercialization plan, amount of other funding you’ve received, information about product development and your research team. Tell the WHOLE STORY.

2. DON’T write a Phase 1 as a stand-alone.

    DO highlight Phase 1 in context of your project timeline. Your Phase 1 is a component of a larger project. Use your Phase 1 as your “Feasibility Test”.

3. DON’T be vague about what you hope to get out of your Phase 1.

    DO write milestone specific aims with clear success criteria. Make it clear to the reviewers that you will KNOW when you achieve your aims. Specific Aims = Objective, Tasks = Activities.

4. DON’T be uninformed about relevant literature/research going on in the field you study.

    DO analyze literature and market to demonstrate your knowledge of “state of art” and “state of market”.

5. DON’T write a science fair project.

    DO write a credible commercialization strategy in your Phase 1.

6. DON’T focus only on your PI.

    DO build a good team, include bio-sketches of the team with personal statements.

7. DON’T look like or BE a virtual company.

    DO have company controlled R&D facilities.

8. DON’T over-promise and under deliver on budget.

    DO stay within budget and a propose a plan that will make you likely to do so.

9. DON’T say “trust me”.

    DO validate, support all of your claims that you made in the proposal.

10. DON’T Ignore lessons learned.

      DO Follow every cliché you’ve heard.

BBCetc is an approved Service Provider for CTC.  For more information on BBCetc and their SBIR expertise, visit their website 

SBIR Funding Provides a Clear Advantage to Emerging Energy-Efficient Window Technology

Pewaukee-based is pulling ahead in the race to perfect vacuum insulating glass technology, having just received a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase II grant from the National Science Foundation for over $720,000. This will allow the company to make significant strides in advancing and proof-testing their innovative energy-saving window technology, with the goal of developing a product that is more efficient and less expensive than triple glazed windows. As a typical home loses 30% of its heat through windows and new Environmental Protection Agency Energy Star standards have gone into effect for residential windows in the northern region this year, affordable “windows as warm as a wall” – as the V-Glass slogan proclaims – would revolutionize the architectural industry.

Since it was founded in 2008, V-Glass has been awarded grants totaling over $1,450,000 (including the current award), as well as numerous in-kind contributions of supplies, space and services. V-Glass was also the first place winner for the Advanced Manufacturing Division of the Wisconsin Governor’s Business Plan Competition in 2013. However, the company had to work very hard to achieve this level of support. SBIR grants in particular are highly sought after and the process of completing a competitive application is notoriously difficult, especially for novice entrepreneurs.

According to V-Glass CEO Peter Petit, the company submitted nine SBIR applications before receiving its first successful Phase I award, and then received three more in rapid succession. Additionally, their first three Phase II applications were denied before V-Glass received the award this month. Petit has utilized the services offered by the Center for Technology Commercialization (CTC) for eight years while raising funds to advance research and development, and he largely credits that support and mentorship for his company’s success in acquiring federal funding to continue on their path of discovery.

“[CTC Consultants] know the scoring pattern, and have experience and knowledge about what federal agencies are looking for and the kind of accounting system needed,” stated Petit, who has also received several commercialization-focused grants through the CTC. The Micro-Grant program connects entrepreneurs to professional assistance in writing business and commercialization plans and applications for federal SBIR and STTR (Small Business Technology Transfer) funding, and the SBIR Advance matching grant program provides funding and training for business development and commercialization activities not covered by SBIR/STTR grants.

“SBIR Advance funding was so important to us because it was unencumbered, and federal funds cannot be used for patents,” notes Petit. “It paid for the patent we just won. That’s just the start.”

The V-Glass journey took several turns over the past five years to reach this point. Experiments on edge seals in 2011 led the company to a strategic pivot in 2012 when they began perfecting a method of directly cold-welding aluminum to glass. Following that, further trials led to the realization that pane-spacers were key to high performance, and V-Glass developed a new type of metal ‘whiskers’ for the task, which – while difficult to see by design – space glass panes apart with minimal contact to prevent heat loss while minimizing stresses and bowing. In 2015, while testing their first prototype utilizing this approach at the Technology Innovation Center in Wauwatosa, there was a cold snap; the V-Glass product demonstrated twice the insulating value of triple pane windows in winter conditions. This is the technology V-Glass just patented, and according to Petit it’s the most important milestone the company has reached to date and was fundamental to winning their latest SBIR award.

“Applying for grants has been like a process of filling holes,” explains Petit. “This is our most important patent and it adds the most value to our company…it represents filling another hole. Investors don’t like to invest in companies that don’t have patent protection.”

One remaining hurdle V-Glass is working on is how to eliminate outgassing on sealed off windows, which would cause the vacuum to decay over time. This is the topic of their current Phase II proposal. Petit has also submitted a grant proposal to the Department of Energy to do further work on outgassing control. V-Glass must also complete the testing required by private investors to prove their products are ready for customers without warranty risk, which is a very expensive process.

“Making a commodity like insulating glass for windows is a very capital-intensive business. We still have to meet cost, and cannot let it exceed triple-pane. We have a head start using two panes instead of three,” says Petit. “It would be so helpful if there were a state version of the SBIR program, and I’m lobbying for that.”

CTC helps power the commercialization of C-Motive Technologies' revolutionary new lightweight motor

The CTC helps power the commercialization of C-Motive Technologies revolutionary new lightweight motor. - See more at: http://wisconsinsbir.org/winners#sthash.Zc0zI9vE.dpuf
CTC helps power the commercialization of C-Motive Technologies revolutionary new lightweight motor - See more at: http://wisconsinsbir.org/winners#sthash.Zc0zI9vE.dpuf
CTC helps power the commercialization of C-Motive Technologies revolutionary new lightweight motor - See more at: http://wisconsinsbir.org/winners#sthash.Zc0zI9vE.dpuf

CTC

The CTC helps power the commercialization of C-Motive Technologies revolutionary new lightweight motor. - See more at: http://wisconsinsbir.org/winners#sthash.Zc0zI9vE.dpufA revolutionary new lightweight motor in development by C-Motive Technologies, a startup based in Madison, WI, could change the way machines have run for over a century.  The “C-Machine” is an electric motor that does not use steel, copper or rare earth metals, making it extremely light and capable of providing significant savings in fuel and material costs…features that would make it a game-changer in the manufacturing of electric vehicles and airplanes, among other industries.

A revolutionary new lightweight motor in development by , a startup based in Madison, WI, could change the way machines have run for over a century.  The “C-Machine” is an electric motor that does not use steel, copper or rare earth metals, making it extremely light and capable of providing significant savings in fuel and material costs…features that would make it a game-changer in the manufacturing of electric vehicles and airplanes, among other industries.

So, what has powered the research and development behind the C-Machine?

Founded in 2012 by Dr. Justin Reed and Dr. Dan Ludois, the concepts behind C-Motive Technologies were formed when they were in the Power Engineering graduate program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  While there, several promising “outside the box” ideas led them to pursue patents through the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF) in 2011.  At the same time, C-Motive reached out to the Center for Technology Commercialization (CTC) at the University of Wisconsin-Extension Division for Business and Entrepreneurship for assistance in preparing applications for the federal Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program, which offers highly competitive grant funding to support early stage technological innovation by startups. 

WARF invested in the company and led a round of seed funding in 2013 and, after several attempts, C-Motive also received a Phase I SBIR grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF).  In combination, these two successes provided the resources necessary for C-Motive to fully launch into developing their technologies, growing from prototype to the Beta test phase.  Reed and Ludois also give credit to the Wisconsin School of Business Weinert Applied Ventures in Entrepreneurship (WAVE) program for helping them to make influential connections and meet investors.  Following their Phase I SBIR award, they applied for and received funding from the CTC’s SBIR Advance program to help them advance their technology and further develop a business model that would be competitive in applications for additional federal funding.  Then, in September 2015 they received $721,000 in Phase II SBIR funding from NSF.

“With our Phase I award we achieved a large amount of research that we are still learning from,” noted Reed, now the CEO of C-Motive.  “Then getting Phase II was a huge success – enormous!  Fundraising for hardware development is very labor intensive, and all grants have been enormously helpful.”

Reed is quick to point out that C-Motive’s original SBIR grant applications to the Department of Defense and the Department of Energy were not successful, and that it took a lot of hard work to win the NSF grants.  “It was a gradual learning experience, and we ended up using several CTC resources and the Micro-Grant program.  They [CTC staff and approved service providers] guided writing, did a lot of revisions to our writing, packaged it up.  They had provided a work break-down structure and checklist – way helpful.”

“The SBIR Advance funding for Phase I and the first year of Phase II was also really helpful, it provides more flexibility,” explained Reed.  “You never know, especially with hardware development, there are always surprises along the way that come with an additional cost.  More market research in advance means fewer surprises, and you end up having more money to spend on both the technical and non-technical sides.”

Market research conducted by C-Motive under the CTC’s Lean StartUp class, which is required for SBIR Advance awardees, led C-Motive make a major pivot in the direction of their product development and target market.  Their original Phase I grant was focused on technology specifically to develop large wind turbines.  “We found a lot of challenges with going after that market.  It was just too large to pursue as a small company, and there were a lot of business-related risks with potential customers,” said Reed.  “Our focus is now on industrial automation and advanced manufacturing.”

When asked about the company’s goals for the future, Reed emphasized that C-Motive is currently interested in talking to manufacturers about how the C-Machine can work inside their products or be put to use in their manufacturing lines.  “We are continuing technical research and development and applying for additional grants because we want to accelerate our development.  Electric motor development has been all incremental advances over the past 100 years – up to now.  This is the first time this type of motor has been available.  We want to hire more people and focus on getting our first product out the door.”

Pages

Subscribe to Front page feed