Akron University Research Foundation has pending proceedings
When Akron Ascent Innovations sold its assets to a “large multinational technology company” earlier this month, it was a victory not only for its founding professor, Shing-Chung Josh Wong, but also for the University’s Research Foundation. from Akron.
The foundation, known as UARF, had a minority stake in the company, around 15%, said Barry Rosenbaum, a senior researcher, who helps manage the startup support and technology commercialization arm of the ‘university. The foundation will receive a share of the proceeds from the sale, which was not disclosed, and a portion of the company’s future technology revenue streams, Rosenbaum said.
But that’s not the home run he hopes UARF will always hit.
“It’s not a lot of money. (Akron Ascent Innovations) was not a big acquisition,” Rosenbaum said.
UARF still has a stake in Akron Ascent Innovations and the company may develop other products, he said. In addition, UARF has other companies in its pipeline that managers hope to see even bigger deals.
The UARF is not yet counting its chickens. But he keeps a close eye on the eggs he helps cure.
“There are three for (federal) funding now, and based on the correspondence I’ve seen I’m pretty sure they’ll get it,” said Elyse Ball, deputy advisor and project manager. of UARF.
It refers to funding from the National Science Foundation’s Small Business Innovation Research program. It awards grants to promising startups, typically in installments of up to $ 256,000 or $ 1 million at a time, which can be significant for new businesses run on limited budgets, Ball said.
Two of the most promising companies supported by UARF have ties to a single former professor of chemical engineering at Akron University, Dr Chelsea Monty-Bromer, who was fired during downsizing last year. and took up a post at Cleveland State University.
She is CEO of RooSense, an Akron company that develops wearable sensors for athletes that will analyze a person’s sweat and provide them with data to better manage their hydration and electrolyte balance.
“We’re about a year from commercialization,” Monty-Bromer said in an interview on Wednesday, July 14. “Next week we should have our initial beta prototype, and then we’ll do about six months of testing in an exercise lab and testing on real athletes.”
The company, which looks for volunteer test subjects on its website, hopes to bring its product to market next year as SweatID, available as an armband or as part of clothing made by a clothing company from sport who agreed to partner with RooSense, she said.
“Hopefully we will go into full production in the first quarter of next year,” said Monty-Bromer.
The company has figured out how to make its product, she said, but has yet to identify its production facility.
“We know how; we’re working on the where,” Monty-Bromer said.
She’s hoping RooSense will win new SBIR funding, as Ball predicts, and it has already received a grant. The same hope holds true for another business she helped start, called MIC Monitor. (Ball thinks he will likely win SBIR funding soon.) MIC Monitor is developing a system that allows pipeline operators to monitor their systems to identify and treat microorganisms that would otherwise corrode their expensive tubes in steel.
Yes, there are germs that come from the process of drilling and delivering natural gas, and they can eat metal, Monty-Bromer said. She hopes that preventing them from doing this will be a big deal.
A third company that Ball believes should be a candidate for SBIR funding is PolyLux, which is working on the production of new adhesives that release under certain light spectra. The company is working on a first application for medical dressings and then hopes to enter other markets, said Kaushik Mishra, CEO of PolyLux.
“We are already working with a few large multinational companies,” Mishra said. “We have two subsets of materials. One is for medical adhesives and the other is for industrial adhesives. “
PolyLux will likely raise more money at the end of this year from new investors, which it has postponed until 2020 due to the pandemic, Mishra said. He said it’s easier to convey what the product does when it can be demonstrated on a real person – a tactic he also uses to convince doctors to try the technology.
All the companies, as well as others with which the UARF works, have a few things in common. They all receive help applying for state and federal funding, as well as referrals to local angel investors and professional service providers through the UARF. They also take NSF’s I-Corps training – a process, according to Ball and others, requires entrepreneurs to hone their idea by talking to hundreds of potential clients early in the startup process.
UARF is not a source of large amounts of capital, say those who work with it. But that’s not his goal. Instead, they say, UARF prepares them to seek more capital elsewhere when they are ready.
“Anything over a million dollars, I think, is beyond the capabilities of UARF,” said Mishra of PolyLux. “But they are very important in encouraging the right people at an early stage. For us they have been invaluable.”
Rosenbaum said UARF pays its own costs through its activities. But he wants the foundation to be a source of support for entrepreneurs at Akron University as well as significant financial support for the school itself. Time will tell if this happens.
“If we are successful, we will help fund the university,” Rosenbaum said.
Beyond school, UARF is an important part of the ecosystem that supports new startups in Akron in general, said Bill Manby, founding partner of Akron Fusion Ventures investment fund.
“I think they’re essential to that,” Manby said. “Not only do they provide technology, they provide expertise, they provide access to state funding, they provide patent support. They have people who can help write grants, which all of these startups need before they can hire people to do this stuff when they get to the next level. “
Manby is another person who wants UARF pipeline companies to be successful. They are also a source of potential investors for his business and his clients.
“We’ve made a few deals with them and our eyes are on the guys at RooSense,” he said.