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Posts Tagged ‘collaboration’

ITN sponsored Seed Assistance Grant creates ongoing collaborations at Harrisburg University.

Posted June 19th, 2014 by admin

A start-up company was in need of development services to advance their product prototype in order to attract venture funding. The company president contacted ITN in search of funding and expertise to get them to the next step of the development process. As a company they specialize in envisioning educational games to enhance class room learning. Specifically, for this project they were interested in a cardiac physiology activity which would teach how the cardiac system functions and assess students on their grasp of this knowledge. The company had illustration and physiology expertise but needed gaming, social media and pedagogy expertise.

I am Spike Moyer a faculty liaison with ITN and I travel among our network of 15 colleges and universities to acquire a 10,000 foot view of academic expertise in Central PA. No one does educational gaming better than HU and I was sure this collaboration would create a win-win situation. HU has a Center for Advanced Entertainment and Learning Technologies and an undergraduate degree in Interactive Media. I met with Professor Charles Palmer, Executive Director of the Center at HU and he immediately recognized several synergies and was interested in collaborating.

One important synergy is a philosophy: “Changing perspective improves understanding.” HU has been experimenting with a virtual reality simulator called the Virtusphere. So far they have used the tool to develop a training module for an industrial plant and a prototype of an “inner space” style game called Plasma Runner. The game uses a racing mechanic to facilitate physical locomotion through a virtual body. The race cumulates with a “walk through” the heart but also quizzes players on their knowledge of the various systems in the human body. Another synergy is experiential learning. HU has a requirement for undergraduate experiential learning and this collaboration was good opportunity to engage students in a real project. http://www.harrisburgu.edu/faculty-staff/research-centers/virtusphere.php

I arranged an informal meeting with Mr. Palmer and the company president; they shared goals and interacted well. Within a few weeks, they developed a work plan and were ready to write a Seed Assistance Grant proposal. The time frame was short. It was November 2013 by now and we had a deadline of Dec 15 to submit the grant proposal. HU would provide their gaming and educational pedagogy knowledge and the company would provide an illustrator and subject matter expertise. The project would then start with the beginning of the Spring 2014 semester.

The proposal was accepted and the grant was awarded. HU hired an undergraduate student and alumnus to work on this project. The deliverable was mutually defined after the team began taking a closer look. It was completed on time and it demonstrated that a classroom process like a laboratory exercise can be converted into a game. The company is using the result to attract funding and expects an award in July. The company plans to continue this collaboration and would like to fund the HU team in the Summer and Fall semesters to carry their product development to another funding round. The next phase is including multiple players using social media so that an entire class could compete in the game environment and digitally share their achievements with the outside world. Sounds like interactive media to me.

Who wins what?
HU now has a full featured prototype that is getting polished and can be used as a teaching tool. A student and an alumnus are benefiting from experiential learning and receiving an income. The alumnus is acting as a mentor to the undergraduate student. HU’s primary mission is to educate students. ITN acted as an advocate to introduce a company to HU they would not have encountered. Aside from Professor Palmer, staff member Tony Ortega serves as the team’s project manager and lead designer managing all client and team interactions as well as designing the game’s mechanics and visual aesthetics.

This program is expected to continue generating experiential learning opportunities. The client wins by completing the demonstration phase. They have used this result to attract additional funding. They are growing a collaboration relationship with HU and at least two HU graduates may be hired.

A win-win Seed Assistance Grant is completed at Penn State Harrisburg!

Posted June 10th, 2014 by admin

Everyone wins! This is how an ITN Seed Assistance Grant, SAG, program should work. A company and a professor communicate. They generate an idea, want to collaborate to accomplish a goal and need some funding to get started. A grant proposal is written, with the help of ITN. The funds are awarded, about two months late. The project time line is accelerated, three students are engaged and the project deliverable is completed on time. The company is happy, the students and the professor are happy. But that’s only the beginning of a fruitful collaboration.
So who wins what? To name but a few, the company wins with the project delivered on time. They are building a relationship with Penn State Harrisburg and collaborating to outsource and improve their product development. The students gain experiential learning, course credits and of course a paycheck. Penn State wins by engaging with a local company who hires graduates, provides continued funding for capstone projects and engages in curriculum development dialog. And of course the professor wins by attracting additional funding, performing research and generating publications.
How did this get started? I am Spike Moyer and I work as a faculty liaison with ITN. Dr. Ma’moun Abu-Ayyad, maa21@psu.edu, sent me an email asking about the ITN SAG. He had been communicating with a local company that wanted to begin working with Penn State Harrisburg to improve their product. I met with Dr. Abu-Ayyad to better understand what he was up to. The company builds cranes and wanted to develop their equipment control systems from manual to automated using a joy-stick type of human interface. More importantly, the company wanted to begin a relationship. They wanted to donate a bench top size crane to Penn State and begin interfacing with faculty and students.
Dr. Abu-Ayyad had a list of tasks that he wanted to include in the project. I encouraged him to think about a win-win proposal and define a project scope that would fit into the budget and timeline. Think about whom the players are, who is the “project team”? Define deliverables that all of the players want and can be accomplished with high confidence within the schedule and budget. This was the first engagement with the company and it was critical to succeed. Take baby steps, first impressions are lasting.
The budget was small and the schedule was tight. It got even tighter when the funds were released two months after the anticipated project start date. The deliverable was sufficiently defined and could not be reduced, so the resources had to be increased. Two undergraduate students and one graduate student were hired. Training had to be done quickly so the company engineer also increased his hours to work with the students. The team pulled together and the deliverable was completed on time and within budget!
The company has hired one of Dr. Abu-Ayyad’s students: a great opportunity for communication about curriculum and company training needs. The student graduated on a Friday and started working at the company the following Monday. The student is de facto ambassador who can communicate with both Penn State and the company. The undergraduate students are entering their senior year and will work on the next phase as a Capstone project. The company will work with the faculty/student team to define planning details during the Fall Semester. The work begins in Spring Semester with the help of additional company funding.

Organizations Collaborate in Berks County to Assist Healthworks, Inc.

Posted September 14th, 2011 by admin

Helping entrepreneurs grow their businesses is the goal of both the Ben Franklin Technology Partners (BFTP) and Innovation Transfer Network (ITN).  When Connie Faylor, Regional Manager for BFTP of Northeastern PA, began consulting with Healthworks, Inc. - an established business preparing to launch a new innovative service - she suggested an independent market feasibility study.  When the costs for this diagnostic procedure exceeded the firm’s current budget, a potential remedy was to connect the company to a college professor willing to undertake the project as a class project.

Faylor described the conditions to ITN Business Development Officer Jennifer Leinbach, who concurred and recommended a highly qualified Kutztown University practitioner who recently tackled a similar challenging case with excellent results.  An office appointment was set with Kutztown University Business Professor Dr. Therese Maskulka and two star graduate students to review the proposed project’s complexity and scope with Healthwork’s President/CEO Sandra Wolfe-Korejwo and Marketing Officer Keith Chamberlain.  The team felt an immediate attraction and is eager to begin work.

Additionally, Leinbach connected Healthworks to leadership at Reading Area Community College to discuss the development of new training programs to address workforce development issues. 

Guest Post by Jennifer Leinbach, ITN Business Development Officer

Investors Tap into Faculty Expertise

Posted August 8th, 2011 by admin

ITN hosted its first session to introduce a select group of investors to faculty members working on interesting engineering projects ripe for commercialization. The networking event was not meant as a funding pitch, it was meant to put smart people in a room together and see what magic happens.

This was a great first cut at connecting area angel investors with the expertise that resides on local campuses. The idea behind it being that investors can learn to tap into this expertise for things like due dillegence with potential portfolio companies, and that valuable real-world exchanges can take place. In this session, faculty from network members Messiah College and Elizabethtown College presented new developments in small scale biofuels (view video), assistive technology (view video), and dielectric spectrometry (view video). Several follow-up meetings between camps have already taken place.

A few hints on making this mix work are 1) Invite investors who are open to developing relationships and engaging expertise over the long haul. Ones who get the long-term community benefits, not just a pure investment mindset. 2) Pick faculty open to a presentation review and critique. It will be edited and shortened. 3) If possible, have faculty bring along company execs who are using the product, or working closely in the development. They add a different perspective to the presentation, especially during Q&A. 4) Make it casual and offer easy networking at the end - which probably means food and beverages.

We’re scheduling the next meeting for the end of September, this time focused on IT and software development. It’s a work in progress, but we’re excited to see where it leads.

Engineers Connect & Compare Notes on Concrete, Circuits, and a Collaboratory

Posted January 18th, 2011 by admin

Recently a group of engineering faculty (and three graduate engineering students) connected at Messiah College in the first ITN Engineering Forum. These gatherings offer faculty among the ITN schools to meet informally, connect professionally, and gain understanding about the variety of innovation underway across the region. We have seen relationships arise from these, and other ITN events, resulting in research collaborations and joint efforts in pursuit of public and private sector projects. This event was also supported by the NSF-PFI (Partnerships for Innovation) grant. Below is a brief re-cap of the discussion, which is planned as a quarterly meeting.

The group was welcomed by Dr. Randy Fish, Engineering Department Chair and Professor of Engineering, who also spoke briefly on Messiah’s Collaboratory for Strategic Partnerships and Applied Research.

The first presentation was by Dr. Nathaniel E Hager, III; Research Scientist in the Physics & Engineering Dept. of Elizabethtown College. Dr. Hager uses ultrafast pulse Time-Domain-Reflectometry (TDR) to assess the cure of concrete and cementitious materials.

Dr. Aldo Morales, Co-Director of the Center for Signal Integrity at Penn State Harrisburg, spoke on the Center’s activities. “Signal integrity is the engineering field that analyzes high-speed electrical interconnects with the overall goal of improving the design, reliability, and performance of digital systems.” Karthik Balasubramanian, a graduate student in electrical engineering also presented on signal integrity and high speed interconnects.

Mike Zummo, Biodiesel Project Manager and 2006 mechanical engineering graduate at Messiah College reflected on the years that Messiah has been involved in biodiesel, both here and overseas. A small scale production biodiesel facility has been constructed and in September 2008 the U.S. Department of Energy awarded the Collaboratory a USDOE grant for nearly $500,000 for research and refining of the production process.

Dr. Harold Underwood, Associate Professor of Engineering, specializes in circuits, electromagnetics, linear systems, antennas and wireless communication systems, and RF/microwave applications. He has been working in partnership with The SymBionyx Foundation on an assistive technology for Asperger Syndrome clients, known as Wireless Enabled Remote Co-presenceTM (WERC).

Posted by Malcolm Furman, Faculty Liaison at ITN

What You Need to Start a Virtual Commercialization Hub

Posted November 23rd, 2010 by admin

During last week’s national call hosted by Technology Transfer Tactics, we were given the opportunity to share details on ITN’s business model. It’s a unique structure as a virtual commercialization office for a dozen small colleges and universities, and over our five-year lifespan we’ve learned many lessons. While our growth is still a work-in-progress, I’ll share three major points for groups looking to harness academic talent that is spread across multiple institutions.

Identify Key Economic Development Players- find the economic development and funding organizations in your region who see the long term value of connecting faculty and business and get their commitment. You need people willing to go to bat for the organization. ITN could not have launched without the support of economic development groups from Lancaster and Harrisburg, as well as the  PA Department of Community and Economic Development, Penn State Harrisburg, and Ben Franklin Technology Partners/CNP. These early leaders “got it” and were willing to put their money-where-their-mouth-is, by putting in sponsorship dollars, funding staff, giving us space and equipment, and providing access and support from their own staff. These leaders give you the credibility you need in the early days, before you have any real deliverables to showcase.

Fund Seed Grants - We put into play a bucket of money specifically set aside to fund small projects between faculty and business. Up to $20,000 has been available for faculty to apply for and use to accelerate a product or service. Over time we’ve learned that a committed business needs to be involved (not just a signature on a page), bringing cash match or a similar equivalent, and the deliverable has to demonstrate progress toward commercialization. Research for research sake does not help us meet our organizational objectives and plenty of other funding sources, with deeper pockets, support such activities. These seed grants are a great way to bring entrepreneurial faculty out of the woodwork and begin collaborations, particularly in the beginning.

Find Your Niche(s)- The sooner you can identify which pockets of talent and industry segments your faculty are engaged in, the quicker you can gain momentum and begin productive collaboration. Our industry/faculty groups happen to be things like biofuels, simulation and gaming, and engineering, however, they could be anything. There’s real value in connecting faculty across campuses who are doing similar work. This allows you to be a resource for companies in the region (or ones considering your region), and it pools together resources to attract grant funding. Ideas feed off ideas and connecting faculty and students from across campuses increases the innovation factor significantly.  It also gives you multiple options when trying to connect with a business partner. With student work loads, faculty class commitments, and outside projects, you need options to make a timely fit when a company project comes into play. Not all faculty are available at the moment you need them.

These puzzle pieces lead to all kinds of exciting options, including lively faculty forums, industry forums, new product launches, and bigger grants. We attracted over $800,000 in funding for a regional biofuels center, available to all the faculty and companies in our network, largely thanks to these three elements. Of course, this raises other challenges, not the least of which is staffing and sustainability. The more your organization can demonstrate an ability (or real potential) to attract regional talent, keep talent, accelerate company growth, and assist economic development, the more likely state-wide funding will occur.

Why Colleges and the Business Community Need Each Other to Survive

Posted November 5th, 2010 by admin

A three legged stool is how our guest speaker at the recent Seconds vs Semesters event referenced the relationship between the business community and its surrounding colleges and universities. A college campus brings only one of the three elements needed for commercialization success, according to Mr. Jerry McGuire, Associate Vice-Chancellor of Economic Development at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. The other two elements are found outside the campus. Enter the business community.

New ideas, fresh technology and research are in rich supply across the academic community, particularly when you consider the entire student, staff and faculty population. What those ideas need in order to move up the food chain are management and funding. Ideas provide the framework for a potential new business or product. The business community can insert the right team and the necessary funding to navigate the path from the back of a napkin to the shop floor or retail shelf.

McGuire argues that once the university has developed the idea and demonstrated a market, “there is this valley of death in which the other two elements don’t exist at the university and is out there in the community…in all university scenerios having an organization or method to connect with funding (whether grants, banks, or angel investment) and management is very critical to any idea that needs to move foward in the commercial sense.”

A recent New York Times article confirms McGuires notion that universities need to engage with the business community and investors. According to the article, the highly touted Sand Hill venture firm, Andreessen Horowitz (the guys who founded Netscape) sends their staff to college campuses to identify promising engineers for portfolio companies. This is further confirmation that a productive economic development balance relies on the trio of ideas, management, and funding or, said another way, business, academia, and investors.

Watch a brief video interview with Jerry McGuire.

Meet the Media Lounge Guests

Posted October 12th, 2010 by admin

Adding to the excitement of the upcoming Seconds vs Semesters featured speaker, Mr. Jerry McGuire, is our line up of CEO’s, entrepreneurs and faculty who will be participating in the media lounge interviews on October 25, 2010.

It’s a high caliber networking opportunity - a chance to meet faculty who are involved in interesting company projects, students with an eye on innovation, and CEO’s who support community engagement with local college and university talent to move business forward.  

Take a peek at the business leaders joining ITN in the media lounge and get registered today!

Mr. Richard Dennis - President of Die-Tech Inc. in York Haven, Pa. Mr. Dennis is responsible for the vision, culture, and alignment of the company.

Mr. Larry Dittman- President of Elabyrinth Solutions, and serial entrepreneur. Mr. Dittman is involved in the development of a new organization focused on assisting and mentoring second stage entrepreneurs.

Ms Cathy von Birgelen- Director, eMarketing Learning Center. Ms von Birgelen has been tapped to lead this new program which celebrates its launch during the ITN event. The Center is part of the Ben Franklin Venture Investment Forum network of services.

Dr. Sairam Rudrabhatia- Penn State Harrisburg, Department of Environmental Engineering. Dr. Sairam, as he is known, is connected with the venture investment community, has licensed his technology to mulitple corporate partners, holds several patents, and has attracted significant grant dollars to his biodiesel and molecular pharming initiatives.

Mr. Kyle Ashe - International Business Major with a concentration in Marketing and a Minor in Spanish. Mr. Ashe is actively involved in the Student Senate, the Peer Review Board under the Dean, and has studied abroad in Ecuador. He is a Senior at Elizabethtown College.

Here’s One Way to Keep Good Ideas Brewing!

Posted September 29th, 2010 by admin

The arrival of Mr. Jerry McGuire to speak at Seconds vs. Semesters is just one of the ways ITN plans to keep good ideas brewing throughout the region! Before Mr. McGuire takes the stage to share his experience in corporate (as the former head of international marketing and licensing at Westinghouse) and his current leadership role at UNCG, you’ll have the opportunity to stimulate conversation at the coffee bar (or the soda bar for the non-coffee drinkers) and visit us at the media lounge.

Beginning at 5:30pm on October 25th, join us as we intermingle smart professionals with caffeine and do our part to percolate innovation and learn from one of North Carolina’s most progressive thought leaders. Both the coffee bar and our interactive media lounge (more on that in a coming blog) will be vibrant hubs of activity at our event, held at the Elizabethtown College KAV, inside the Brossman Commons.

If you haven’t claimed your seat at the event yet, get the details and REGISTER.

UNC-G Innovation Leader Speaks to the Power of Collaboration & How to Harness It!

Posted September 9th, 2010 by admin

Using descriptors like “academentia” as part of his spirited economic development presentations, Jerry McGuire dares to challenge traditional thinking in business and academia. Sitting at the eye of a thriving east coast mega-region, Mr. McGuire is experienced in helping colleges and universities create significant value, and bottom-line results, in a fast-paced business environment.

As the Associate Vice-Chancellor for Economic Development at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Mr. McGuire is slated to deliver an energetic and thought-provoking presentation, Seconds vs. Semesters, speaking to corporate CEO’s, faculty and students at Elizabethtown College on Monday, October 25, 2010.  The Innovation Transfer Network (ITN), South Central PA’s bridge between the private sector and a network of academic institutions, is pleased to host Mr. McGuire and provide a platform for him to share examples of what works and what doesn’t in kick-starting an economic transformation.

Over the coming weeks, ITN will release snippets outlining other cool interactive elements of the event which will take place at the KAV, at Elizabethtown College. The opportunity to host such a lively guest means ITN is planning a unique mix of media, networking and content meant to fuel an ongoing discussion! Visit this blog weekly to keep up and register for this event.