For the second year, WSU is supporting researchers in moving innovations from the lab to the marketplace through the Commercialization Gap Fund (CGF). The CGF program provides financial assistance to advance technologies that are at the end stage of research, but require additional development before entering the marketplace.
Gap funding is an important part of the commercialization process. Once a discovery in the lab begins to show potential applications, researchers must get across what is called the “valley of death;” a stretch of time between academic grants and private investment where very little funding exists.
“Many potential new technologies can get left on the shelf when researchers can’t move their discoveries to the next step,” said Anson Fatland, associate vice president of economic development at WSU. “That is why WSU is pleased to offer this critical funding. It exemplifies the university’s ongoing commitment to bring research discoveries to the public, where they can make the most impact by improving lives and contributing to the economy.”
Seven WSU researchers dispersed across the state received grants in 2014, and are about halfway through the funding cycle. Each researcher is working with a technology manager in the Office of Commercialization to achieve key developmental milestones throughout the 12-month program. A portion of each award is designated to business development activities (e.g., market studies, business plan development, customer outreach etc.) to further advance innovations to the marketplace.
The seven 2014 funded projects are:
LIFE SCIENCES: Keeping people and communities healthy and safe
Reducing infection, and improving performance of hip and knee implants
Amit Bandyopadhyay; Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture
Dr. Bandyopadhyay has developed novel materials that can enhance the design and safety of joint implants. He is working with manufacturers to put those materials to use creating products that are infection resistant, and reduce the release of metal ions that increase cancer risks by building up in the soft tissue of the body. Ultimately, these two related technologies will improve patient health and comfort, and reduce healthcare costs.
Targeted drug delivery with a tunable pH-sensitive linker
Cliff Berkman, College of Arts and Sciences
Current anticancer drugs destroy healthy cells along with cancerous cells. Dr. Berkman and his team are working to refine a drug delivery technology that more accurately targets cancer cells. This research has the potential to improve treatment protocols and reduce the side effects experienced by cancer patients.
Keeping drivers safe: detecting moderate levels of fatigue while driving
Hans Van Dongen, College of Medical Sciences (Spokane)
Drowsy driving is common and costs society billions of dollars in damage and lost productivity. Dr. Van Dongen and his team have developed and patented a sensor and algorithm to detect drowsy driver behavior from steering wheel motion. Work is currently underway to design a user interface and prototype that can be marketed to industry partners.
LIFE SCIENCES: Increasing and improving food production
Improving apple harvesting
Mark De Kleine, College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences (Tri-Cities)
Washington apple growers supply 58 percent of the U.S.’s apple yield. Continued increases in acreage and yield require efficient and effective harvesting techniques. Dr. De Kleine and his team are developing an apple harvester to increase worker efficiency, reduce labor dependency, and decrease the amount of damage to fruit during machine harvesting.
New harvesting system for specialty crops
Matthew Whiting, College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences (Prosser)
Fruit growers are currently challenged to accurately assess and reimburse pickers in the field. Dr. Whiting and his team are working to further develop a harvest management system. Improvements to the hardware and firmware of the current prototype are expected to more accurately weigh fruit, credit pickers individually for the weight of fruit harvested, print transaction receipts, and create data that can be digitally uploaded to payroll software.
CLEAN TECHNOLOGY: Sustaining resources for the next generation
Improving biofuel production
Hanwu Lei, College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences (Tri-Cities)
Bio-oil obtained through the thermal decomposition of organic components in biomass can be costly and inefficient. This research project will further explore a method to convert biomass to aromatic hydrocarbons that can be directly used as gasoline and aviation fuel components.
Improving agricultural traits in plants
Hanjo Hellmann, College of Arts and Sciences (Pullman)
Improving crop plant performance and yield in the U.S. is critical to meeting future consumer demands and to adapting to environmental changes. Dr. Hellmann’s team is working on an agricultural biotechnology that will improve biofuel production, plant stress tolerance, and food yield.
The application process for a second round of awards is currently underway and awards are expected to be announced in late November. More information about the CGF is available here.
WSU and the Washington Research Foundation generously fund the CGF.