Industry-Sponsored Research Week

U of Wyoming creates ‘team professorship’ to boost ties with businesses

By David Schwartz
Published: September 17th, 2019

Two faculty members from the University of Wyoming’s Department of Mechanical Engineering have been appointed to a “team professorship” designed to create entrepreneurial solutions for a number of technical businesses in the region.

Carl Frick, professor and department head, and Ray Fertig, an associate professor, were appointed to the professorship, which is being funded by Windsor, CO-based Snaptron Inc. The pair will use the five-year appointment to establish relationships geared toward product innovation and entrepreneurship, with a primary focus on fostering ties between technical businesses and the university.

The idea is to offer regional businesses that can’t afford an in-house R&D effort to tap into the university’s expertise, using the two professors as the key point people for the school.

They’ve already met with several companies, with an initial goal of identifying common themes among businesses that share similar product solution needs in advanced manufacturing and materials engineering. Later, they hope to create two to three start-up companies that will develop tangible products for engineering and technology-related businesses.

Before their appointments, both professors worked in entrepreneurial positions. Frick founded the startup Impressio Inc., a company that develops improved protective materials for athletic helmets. Fertig spent several years developing a modeling approach to predict failure and useful lifetime of composite wind turbine blades for Firehole Technologies, a UW spinoff that was later acquired by Autodesk.

“What we want to do now is interface with companies, ask them about their largest problems, identify a common theme, and then take the large expertise at UW to find a synergy and economic opportunity where we can derive a product or solution that can be used by many,” Fertig says.

He adds that the program will link with other faculty in the College of Engineering and Applied Science, such as the Department of Computer Science, who will be able to help provide expertise in fields not normally available to many of the companies the team will work with.

“It’s infrequent that midrange businesses can afford to have a permanent research and development team on staff and, as a consequence, it can be a challenge for them to derive new innovative products to remain at the forefront of their industry,” Fertig says. “We have a broad contingent of experts across the university who can help us with expanded disciplines such as machine learning and mathematic modeling. And it’s a great way for us to plug in with these projects.”

Source: UW News

Posted under: University-Industry Engagement Week

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