UMBC researchers and faculty members recently secured Maryland Innovation Initiative grants designed to promote the commercialization of research.
The MII program, a collaboration between the state of Maryland and five of its prestigious academic institutions: Johns Hopkins University; University of Maryland, Baltimore; University of Maryland, College Park; Morgan State University and the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Among those academic institutions, UMBC has one of the highest success rates for MII awards.
According to MII director at Maryland Technology Development Corporation, Jennifer Hammaker, “UMBC’s success in the MII program has been consistently growing over the course of the 3.5 years since the program started.” Since then, UMBC researchers have received more than $2 million to develop their ideas into fruition for commercial application which has seen a remarkable success rate of 50 percent.
The UMBC recipients of the MII grant include: Linda Dusman and Eric Smallwood, Chris Geddes, Neel Savani and Jeffrey Gardner.
Dusman, music professor, and Smallwood, assistant visual arts professor, plan to use their phase II award to further their efforts of scaling a prototype for their mobile app, Octava, which provides real-time program notes during live theater performances, offering audiences details about the artists,performers, musicians and other information to, according to Dusman, “do real-time education.”
Geddes, professor of chemistry and biochemistry and director of the Institute of Fluorescence, won his phase II award thanks to Lyse-it, a company which produces low-cost portable devices that break open cells and dissects DNA into prescribed fragment sizes, a step required in many sample-preparation procedures in the biomedical research and health care industries. The award funding is slated to facilitate increased production of the Lyse-it product as well as support development of a rapid marketing strategy.
Savani, a researcher at UMBC’s Goddard Planetary Heliophysics Institute, is developing a system that would be able to forecast solar storms up to 24 hours in advance. Savani’s team phase I MII grant would allow them to “get a handle and statistical understanding of how good of an improvement this forecast will be.” Savanna adds that, “If I can validate how much the improvement will be, then I can convert that into a sales pitch.”
Gardner, assistant professor of biological sciences, received his phase I MII grant for technology that will support the biofuels industry. According to his group, they “will develop a set of small porous filters that enables real-time measurement of microbial growth during biofuel production.”
For many of the recipients, the MII grant [and the process with it] can be a huge learning opportunity for research faculty to educate themselves to certain aspects of business. Some companies formed by UMBC faculty choose to create a home base at bwtech@UMBC, next to UMBC’s campus. Executive director of bwtech@UMBC, Ellen Hemmerly, explains that the research and technology park is able to provide “a range of incubator services to help the companies grow and be successful.”
As education and furthering one’s knowledge fits with the culture and mindset of UMBC, according to Karl V. Steiner, vice president for research, said that, “When we talk about research at UMBC, we frequently use the phrase ‘Innovation that Matters’ to reflect the fact that many of our faculty and students are working on our current, most pressing issues.” He also said, “Our success with the TEDCO MII program is rooted deeply in this research culture [at UMBC] of making a difference.”
Hammaker sees UMBC as a prime example of this notion. “Exactly what’s happening at UMBC is what we’re looking for.” She added, “UMBC is doing a great job of working with the faculty and getting them prepared to come through the program. UMBC has a lot to be excited about.”