A dozen promising technologies are making progress toward the market thanks to Accelerate UConn (AU), the University of Connecticut’s National Science Foundation (NSF) entrepreneurship program. Several high-potential faculty-student teams recently completed rigorous business training provided through the program, culminating with final presentations before their peers, university administrators, and members of the business community.
“Accelerate UConn helps high-potential technologies take that critical first step out of the lab towards the market,” said UConn Vice President for Research, Dr. Jeff Seemann. “Making contact with customers, developing a market entry strategy, pivoting a business idea for a better chance of success—it’s all essential for UConn technologies to reach the market where they can benefit society and impact economic growth in Connecticut.”
Accelerate UConn is the only NSF I-Corps site in Connecticut, and one of only four in New England. I-Corps sites are housed at academic institutions around the country, and provide valuable business training and seed funding to grow promising university-based technologies. I-Corps is a key initiative established in 2011 to increase the volume of commercially viable technologies coming out of academic labs. The program provides a framework for entrepreneurial faculty, staff, and students to join with industry mentors and participate in special NSF-endorsed curricula. Participants learn to assess the market potential of their technologies, and win funds to support early customer contact to validate concepts and market strategies.
The technologies in this cycle are at varying degrees of development, come from several different disciplines, and serve multiple industries. Some of the teams have already formed startups based on their products or services, while others may seek to develop licensing opportunities with existing companies.
The technologies that gained ground during this cycle of Accelerate UConn include:
- A novel passive sampling device to detect toxic organic pollutants in various aquatic environments, like natural waterways, groundwater, and wastewaters.
- A non-invasive method to address cervical insufficiency, a condition that causes pre-term labor.
- Software and consultation services to establish native plant communities and pollinator habitats on New England roadways, allowing for both positive environmental and cost-saving measures by departments of transportation, energy companies, and conservation groups.
- A novel therapeutic for pediatric patients with drug resistant leukemia.
- A comprehensive solution to prevent irresponsible teen driving for use by parents, insurance companies, and car manufacturers.
- Fluorescent shrimp for pollutant reporting, education, and home aquariums.
- An off-the-grid lighting system for use in developing countries.
- Non-toxic, highly sensitive voltage-sensitive dyes for brain and heart focused drug screening.
- A device to monitor the quality of wastewater in real-time and improve effluent quality.
- A first-in-class biologic therapy for non-responding Rheumatoid Arthritis with the industry’s first companion diagnostic test.
- Rapid, on-site disease diagnostic technologies to increase efficiency of patient care in clinical settings.
“By developing a stronger understanding of their target markets, the Accelerate UConn teams are now better-prepared to commercialize their exciting, original technologies,” said Dr. Tim Folta, Faculty Director of CCEI and Thomas John and Bette Wolff Family Chair in Strategic Entrepreneurship in UConn’s School of Business. “These are innovations that could lower healthcare costs, have a positive impact on the environment, improve patient experience and quality of life, all while also having a significant, tangible effect on the state economy.”
Accelerate UConn launched in May 2015, and has already helped approximately 20 teams of aspiring entrepreneurs. The program serves all UConn campuses, including UConn Health, and is jointly operated by the Office of the Vice President for Research and the Connecticut Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation housed in the School of Business. Accelerate UConn complements many other initiatives at UConn focused on commercialization, like the Technology Incubation Program, the CCEI Summer Fellowship Program, the construction of the UConn Tech Park at Storrs, and the growing relationship with The Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine.
To learn more about Accelerate UConn, visit www.accelerate.uconn.edu.