Innovation Works, CMU receive $1M grant for tech commercialization program - CTTEC - Carnegie Mellon University

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Innovation Works, CMU receive $1M grant for tech commercialization program

A partnership between Carnegie Mellon University's Donald H. Jones Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation Works has been awarded a $1 million grant through the federal Economic Development Administration to establish a new technology commercialization program.

The award is part of the i6 Challenge and taps a pot of $12 million offered by the U.S. Commerce Department in partnership with the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation. Six winners were announced, and each will receive $1 million.

Innovation Works and the Donald H. Jones Center are creating an “Agile Innovation System” that would take the commercialization abilities of the university and Innovation Works to create an integrated system to build new companies, said Matt Harbaugh, chief investment officer of Innovation Works, a nonprofit seed-stage investment group.

“It shouldn’t matter if you enter (the program) through the university, or AlphaLab or Innovation Works, it all should be working together to make the companies here in Pittsburgh and to make them as strong and as competitive as they can be,” Harbaugh said.

The system will look a lot like the Innovation Works’ technology accelerator and incubator AlphaLab, which has helped to create 23 companies since starting in 2008. The new program will vet new technology and bring in resources from both organizations to help with market research, intellectual property and prototyping.

When working with universities in the past, Innovation Works has given grants, typically of $25,000.

“The reason the federal EDA was interested in this is our goal at IW and CMU through this project is to create a model for the nation,” Harbaugh said. “It’s a way for regions to pull together all their resources at universities and nonprofits, like IW, as well as industry to be able to take advantage of their intellectual assets in a more efficient manner.”

Where AlphaLab is geared toward software and Web-based development, this program is aimed at all types of technology. Interested entrepreneurs or small businesses looking to spin-out their technology can access the program through the Don Jones Center, AlphaLab applications or Innovation Works.

Art Boni, director of the Don Jones Center, sees the program as an important way to get the collaboration of the center and Innovation Works early in the commercialization process so that a company can get to market quickly. Currently there is a gap in time where the university identifies an opportunity and Innovation Works gets involved. He noted that the CMU accelerator and AlphaLab programs are embodiements of what this new program can do on a broader scale.

“(There are) two parts to the program, one part is targeted at the university. Someone still in the university that is developing something that looks like it has potential. Our challenge is to identify markets first that those technologies could be applied to, then go through this agile innovation process,” Boni said. “(The) other side is the community, look at existing organizations that have received SBIR funding who are trying to do the same thing and may have gone further but they need help figuring out a comprehensive strategy for this opportunity.”

The grant was announced by U.S. Commerce Sec. Gary Locke during a speech at The Brookings Institute. Six regional winners were named. The region represented by Innovation Works and CMU stretches from Maine to Virginia.

“Each of the winners exemplifies the entrepreneurial spirit that drives innovation and will help move America forward by increasing our competitiveness around the world,” Locke said in a written statement. “The i6 Challenge represents a key component of President Obama’s innovation strategy — to move great ideas from the lab to the marketplace to create jobs and economic growth.

Article Courtesy of Pittsburgh Business Times