Industry-Sponsored Research Week

Pepsi partners with Alvernia U to support experiential learning


By David Schwartz
Published: July 14th, 2020

Alvernia University and Pepsi, the Reading, PA-based school’s exclusive beverage supplier, have expanded their partnership, with Pepsi throwing support behind entrepreneurship programs as well as Reading CollegeTowne initiative, which is redeveloping the city’s downtown area. continue reading »

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Virginia Tech collaborates with Dive Technologies to develop advanced autonomous underwater vehicle


By David Schwartz
Published: July 14th, 2020

Virginia Tech’s Center for Marine Autonomy and Robotics has entered a partnership with Boston-based Dive Technologies to develop an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV).

This multiyear collaboration will see researchers apply innovative technologies developed in the academic lab and deploy them in next-generation commercial applications of AUVs.

Bill Lebo, co-founder and chief technology officer of Dive Technologies, says: “We feel fortunate to be working closely with professors Daniel Stilwell, Stefano Brizzolara, and the entire team supporting Dive Technologies from the Center for Marine Autonomy and Robotics.

“Leveraging the expertise of the Virginia Tech team really drove our autonomous underwater vehicle design forward in a uniquely innovative way and has created immense efficiency in our development schedule,” said Bill Lebo, co-founder and chief technology officer of Dive Technologies. “Our partnership with Virginia Tech has pushed our team creatively and demonstrates the exceptional value of academic partnerships.”

Brandy Salmon, Virginia Tech’s associate vice president for innovation and partnerships, noted that the deal validates the university’s Link License Launch model, which integrates sponsored research with tech transfer and licensing functions. “The structure of this partnership is so inspiring and embodies everything we’re working to enable through the Link License Launch discovery to market team, Salmon said.  

“This gives Dive the opportunity to further commercialize, manufacture, and scale their innovative AUV platform. This end-to-end approach creates value on both sides and ensures technologies developed at the university deliver societal and economic impact. We look forward to supporting our researchers and Dive as the work advances,” she added.

The research team is led by Professors Daniel Stilwell in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Stefano Brizzolara, associate professor in the Department of Aerospace and Ocean Engineering.

“Dive Technologies came to us with a specific set of requirements for their unmanned underwater vehicle, which will perform deep ocean surveys and data collection,” Stilwell said.

“As one of the only places in the country that is comprehensively studying autonomous underwater vehicles, Virginia Tech is helping them leap ahead in terms of technology.”

In addition to software to guide AUV missions, Virginia Tech is working on new vehicle designs to enable long endurance missions by reducing drag and improving propulsion efficiency.

Source: Robotics and Automation News

Survey of Sponsored Research Agreements between the Private Sector and Higher Education provides a rich set of benchmarks and data to compare against your own sponsored research activity. Click here for details.

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Defense contractor to open office on Wichita State campus as part of partnership


By David Schwartz
Published: July 14th, 2020

Navatek LLC, a contractor that conducts research for U.S. government agencies such as the Department of Defense and NASA, is opening an office on the Wichita State University campus this fall as part of a collaborative partnership. That collaboration will involve applied research and hands-on learning opportunities for students, while also helping diversify the local economy. continue reading »

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United Kingdom taskforce puts university-industry partnerships at center of economic plans


By David Schwartz
Published: July 14th, 2020

The United Kingdom’s National Centre for Universities and Business (NCUB) has been asked to launch a new Taskforce to advise on the future of UK R&D. The taskforce, at the behest of UK Research and Innovation, will consider how partnerships between universities and businesses can be strengthened to drive the UK economy. continue reading »

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White House rescinds grant funding exceptions that kept research money flowing during shutdown


By David Schwartz
Published: July 7th, 2020

The White House has modified its relaxation of rules on how U.S. universities manage federal research grants during the coronavirus shutdown, leaving them with less flexibility to cope with the pandemic. The changes rescind many temporary measures adopted this spring as COVID-19 shuttered campuses, despite continued uncertainty over the fall semester and the status of research activity on U.S. campuses.

“I am speechless because I just don’t know” what lies ahead, said David Mayo, head of sponsored research at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech).

In March, the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) authorized a slew of short-term exceptions to its guidelines on how federal research dollars could be spent in order to soften the blow of lab shutdowns. These exceptions allowed universities to keep paying the salaries of researchers from their grants even if their labs were shuttered. OMB also allowed reimbursement for travel, meetings, and other activities that had been canceled and get funded for replacing medical equipment they had donated to hospitals to fight the pandemic.

Although the latest guidance from OMB allows institutions to continue to charge salaries of locked-out scientists against their grant, a new requirement insists that grantees “exhaust other available funding sources to sustain its workforce” before paying out salaries from the grant.

They also must “document” their attempts “to reduce overall operational costs.”

However, the OMB’s memo announcing the changes doesn’t explain how to do that, and research managers are still hoping for clarification. “Many of our institutions are engaged in broad-based cost-saving measures,” says Pamela Webb, a research administrator at the University of Minnesota, pointing to widespread imposition this spring of travel restrictions, salary reductions or furloughs, and hiring freezes. “If these items were deemed to satisfy this requirement, I think we would have collective confidence that we would meet the intent, and documentation is straightforward.”

Meanwhile, research labs are faced with the fact that drawing down on their grants means less money will be left to do the research they were originally funded to complete.

Research leaders hope more funding is in the offing finish their projects, but that would require additional money from Congress, which is divided over the next COVID-19 relief package and

has yet to pass spending bills for the next fiscal year. In the meantime, labs are left with more questions than answers. Webb said the flexible rules were much appreciated while they were in effect, “but there’s also a huge amount of angst and uncertainty over what will happen next.”

The new OMB stance reflects the Trump administration’s belief that things should be getting back to normal despite the continuing rise in COVID-19 cases. As spelled out in an OMB memo, the government assumes that universities have figured out how to deal with the pandemic and no longer require special consideration. “During the Coronavirus pandemic,” it notes, “many recipients learned the capabilities and are now getting the experience to perform the objectives of the Federal programs remotely, with limited access to their physical office.”

Almost all of OMB’s other temporary measures have been rescinded, including provisions to recover the cost of canceled travel plans. Grantees can still spend their money to replace medical supplies donated before the new memo was issued, but not for future donations.

Source: Science

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Budget and Productivity Hacks for University TTOs


By David Schwartz
Published: July 7th, 2020

At universities across the globe, the purse strings are tighter than ever – and tech transfer offices are feeling it. Many TTOs report being busier than ever as technologies related to COVID-19 pour in, but staff and budget dollars are likely to decline, while expectations from administration are not likely to see a similar reduction.

Tech transfer professionals are a determined and innovative bunch, and they’ll need every bit of that ingenuity to keep up with disclosures, tech assessments, patents, licensing negotiations, start-up support, marketing and outreach, and the myriad tasks that make up a busy TTO’s days.

It will take some creative “hacks” to boost productivity and squeeze every drop out of your budget.

To help guide you, we’ve teamed up with TTO directors from two distinctly different offices to share their plans and strategies for getting the job done — and done well — with fewer resources. Please join Andrew R.O. Watson, PhD, CLP, Senior Director of OHSU Technology Transfer, and H. Victoria Bryant, Director of the Wyoming Technology Transfer and Research Products Center at the University of Wyoming, for this strategy-filled webinar: Budget and Productivity Hacks for University TTOs, scheduled for July 22nd.

Click here for complete details and to register.

Also coming soon:

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New consortium seeks to enhance U.S. role in solar energy production


By David Schwartz
Published: July 7th, 2020

A detailed article on the new US-MAP consortium appears in the June issue of University-Industry Engagement Advisor. For complete subscription details, click here.

The University of Washington and its Washington Clean Energy Testbeds, the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Toledo, along with a group of leading solar companies, have formed the U.S. Manufacturing of Advanced Perovskites Consortium, or US-MAP (www.nrel.gov/research/us-map.html).

The group aims to accelerate the domestic commercialization of technologies based on perovskites, an emerging class of materials with properties ideal for solar energy that can be inexpensively produced. The participating companies will have access to, and support in, the universities’ and NREL’s cleantech fabrication, characterization, and testing facilities. Founding companies, including BlueDot Photonics, Energy Materials Corporation, First Solar, Hunt Perovskites Technologies, Swift Solar, and Tandem PV, will serve as members of the industry advisory board, which will identify R&D directions and priorities and will also be involved in the selection and evaluation of projects. The aforementioned founding organizers will serve on the executive board and will oversee delivery of projects.

“The University of Washington was involved in the earliest stages [of perovskites research],” says J. Devin MacKenzie, PhD, a UW professor and director of Washington Clean Energy Testbeds. “I think there was a recognition that this was an opportunity for the U.S. from a lot of perspectives in looking for an alternative to silicon.”

Solar cells, he notes, are predominantly manufactured in Asia and assembled in the U.S., “but some newer technologies, like the first solar telluride, had been done more successfully out of the U.S. manufacturing model,” he explains. “Recognition of that, and also of that fact that a lot of investment was going on all over world, indicated that the U.S. needed to take part and really push and make [perovskites technology] a commercial reality.”

If key stakeholders in the U.S. “just sat on our hands,” he continues, this might not have happened by itself — or it might have happened too late. “China has been investing so heavily — in many multiples of the U.S.,” MacKenzie explains.

“The real conception [for the consortium] was from the University of Washington and NREL,” adds Jared S. Silvia, PhD, CEO and co-founder of BlueDot, a Seattle-based start-up building solar panels and other photonic devices. “They then went on to engage industrial partners; it’s important to have people who are going to be able to commercialize.”

At the Washington testbeds, MacKenzie explains, industry “can come in immediately and with easy IP terms. If you come and pay on an hourly basis, you retain 100% of the IP.” This policy was in place prior to the consortium, he points out. “We saw that maybe we’d want to incorporate at least parts of that model so it would be more accessible to smaller companies; we certainly want there to be an element of open access — perhaps some NREL, and some testbeds.”

Access to the lab can be critical for start-ups, he continues, which might otherwise have to pay between $100,000 and $1 million or more for the unique equipment it offers. “Even if you know you want to use it, it can a take a year or more to get up and running,” he points out. “Our site is there, and the staff can run it or train you.”

Now available: Solar Energy Research: Grants, Contacts, Start-Ups, Patents & Joint Ventures. In this one-of-a-kind report, you’ll learn from key universities in the solar energy research sector worldwide – plus gain insights into trends in activity and support from government, foundations, and industry. Click here for details.

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Universities and tech giants back initiative to expand access to powerful computing resources


By David Schwartz
Published: July 7th, 2020

A group of leading universities and technology companies last week agreed to back a new project intended to give academics and other scientists access to powerful computing resources that are currently available mainly to a few tech giants. continue reading »

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U Delaware gets donation from ViaOne Services for program combining accelerator with summer job


By David Schwartz
Published: July 7th, 2020

Business support firm ViaOne Services announced a charitable donation to support the University of Delaware Horn Entrepreneurship Summer Founders Program. The company will also provide mentorship to participating student groups throughout the program. continue reading »

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Bayer partners with Tel Aviv U to test drugs on 3D-printed hearts


By David Schwartz
Published: July 7th, 2020

A new collaboration agreement between the Tel Aviv University’s tech transfer company Ramot and pharmaceutical giant will involve using 3D-printed human heart tissue to test the cardiotoxicity of experimental drugs. The work will be done in Prof. Tal Dvir’s Laboratory for Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine. continue reading »

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Small businesses and research institutions “TeamUp” with AFWERX for flying car funding


By David Schwartz
Published: July 7th, 2020

AFWERX, the U.S. Air Force program designed to connect USAF innovations with university and industry partners, is hosting its first virtual TeamUp event with the Air Force Research Laboratory next week, from July 15-16. continue reading »

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Best Practices in Gaining SBIR/STTR Funding for University Technologies


By David Schwartz
Published: July 7th, 2020

The Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs can be critical and significant sources of funding for university innovations and start-ups. With nearly $2B in funding being awarded each year, faculty innovators, start-up founders, TTO staff, and sponsored research managers must understand how to ensure their applications stand apart from the herd.

That’s why we’re offering this two-session distance learning resource: Best Practices in Gaining SBIR/STTR Funding for University Technologies. It includes these two outstanding, strategy-filled programs:

  • Dispelling SBIR/STTR Funding Myths and Misconceptions for University-Based Innovations. Many myths and misconceptions persist regarding how to apply, who can apply, what technologies are eligible, and how funds are awarded. SBIR/STTR funding consultant and former NIH scientific review officer Geoffrey White, PhD, dispels the myths and offers solid guidance on successful applications.
  • SBIR/STTR Funding: Strategies for Submitting a Winning Application. Knowing the critical factors that lead to success can make a huge difference in determining whether you get funded — and ultimately in whether your research or early-stage venture ever makes it to the commercial marketplace. This session identifies the four primary components to getting funded through these two highly competitive programs. It also addresses the key challenges facing SBIR/STTR applicants and offers expert guidance for planning ahead to ensure successful completion of major steps within the application process.

For complete details or to order, click here.

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