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Posts Tagged ‘Penn State Harrisburg’

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,, 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.

Biotech Session Plants the Seeds for Innovation

Posted July 6th, 2011 by admin

The first International ITN Biotechnology Forum was hosted by Lebanon Valley College (LVC). Speakers presented from LVC, Penn State Harrisburg (PSH), and Powell Law Associates. Researchers from the National University of Singapore and BSES Limited, formerly the Bureau of Sugar Experiment Stations, in Australia also spoke of their work involving in-vitro plant development and sugarcane species commercialization. These visitors were courtesy of Dr. Sairam Rudrabhatla - having that week been guest lecturers in the Research Experience for Undergraduates EU  (REU)program at PSH. In attendance were also the cohort of REU students and numerous PSH graduate researchers, biology and chemistry.

Below are a few highlights of the session:

Dr. Courtney M. Lappas, of Lebanon Valley College and formerly with NIH, illustrated how T cells affect inflammatory conditions and the effects that adenosine analogs can have on controlling unwanted responses. She has studied the effects that these compounds along with certain genetic factors can have on the condition. In particular, chronic granulomatous disease and graft-versus-host disease show improvements when the adenosine receptors are controlled.

Dr. Shobha Potlakayala of Penn State Harrisburg illustrated her recent work on providing blight resistance in American Chestnut. This builds on her earlier work in developing a systemic acquired resistance in plants through understanding the effects of expression of particular genes. SAR enables the plant to resist diseases like the blight by accumulating, typically, salicylic acid. Success in genetically creating SAR in Chestnut along with the ability to rapidly culture and test shoots [and then confidently grow multitudes of resistant shoots] will be a great improvement in restoring the population (with genetically pure, rather than back-crossed, specimens) over traditional methods.

Mr. Marvin Powell, former patent attorney for Pfizer Inc. and now of Powell Law Associates LLC spoke on patenting and protecting an invention, and on initial pitfalls in the path toward commercialization. Topics included: precisely defining and documenting the invention along with its history and all of its possible uses and variations; outlining the problems solved and why other solutions are less effective; anticipating how competitors might copy it and the critical features to protect. As an instructor on IP for Lincoln University, he desires to inspire the students along with faculty to bring their work (properly protected, of course) forward into the market.

Dr. Prakash Kumar studies the regulation of shoot development and plant yields at the National University of Singapore. This includes plant hormone (cytokinins and gibberellins) signaling effects on shoot development. An over twofold increase in biomass and seed yield can be obtained by introducing genetic modifications modifying the hormone signaling. These methods show promise in both food and fuel crops. The team was recently awarded a patent covering these developments: Putative Cytokinin Receptor And Methods For Use Thereof.

Prakash Lakshmanan, Program Leader Molecular Breeding at BSES, has studied salinity tolerance and water relations and currently leads the development and delivery of genetically modified (GM) sugarcane from the bench to the field. For more than a century, BSES has led research, development and extension services for Australian sugarcane production - now having 17 stations in Queensland and New South Wales. Rapidly propagating new cultivars, improving yields, better uptake of nitrogen, and extending the harvest season are among the projects underway.

Check out our entire list of forums and events, we welcome you to join the discussion!

Guest post by Malcolm Furman.

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.

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.

Taking an Idea from Lab to Market

Posted November 16th, 2009 by admin

On Friday, Dr Stephen Fonash spoke to a group of entrepreneurs and faculty in Harrisburg about the challenges of taking an idea from the lab to market. This is an area where he has significant experience as co-founder of two companies, NanoHorizons and Solarity, and as a key player for Penn State’s nanotechnology and materials research in “Happy Valley.”

As anyone who’s been around the start-up process knows, there are many issues. It can be even more tricky when you’re an active faculty member. The three charactor traits Fonash emphasized for survival were being tenacious, realistic, and flexible.  Tenacity gets you through the challenges and being realistic comes in handy when negotiating with investors on a company’s valuation. Flexibility enters the picture when a mangement team is hired around you, as the company grows and a founder’s percentage of ownership decreases with outside capital investment. The handling of intellectual property (IP) was another hot topic, and getting a good lawyer was a point he made more than once.

When asked about his tenure and direct involvement in NanoHorizons, Fonash shared that the level of his day-to-day involvement decreased as it became more of a product-focused company and less of an early stage, idea-generation company. For him, this equated to approximately fours years of intense engagement.

Safe to say there was a lot more to his experience than time would allow.  His battle scars are evident. Both faculty and those eyeing business ownership have much to learn from Dr Fonash. No grass grows under his feet as he continues his involvement with education, writing books, and starting other companies. As for NanoHorizons, he told us at lunch, ”Now I’m just watching my stock.”

It’s Not Rocket Science, It’s About Relationships

Posted October 5th, 2009 by admin

It was unanimous, good collaboration begins not with money, an iron-clad agreement, a timeline or extensive research. It begins by developing a good fundamental relationship with a potential partner. This was one of many points bantered about by faculty and business panelists at Dickinson College, the site of ITN’s “Plug Into the Private Sector” event.

During the course of the evening’s discussion, the group shared their strategy for identifying potential partners. Brian McNew, CEO of EarthNet Energy, found his faculty partner by reaching out to his alma mater, Shippensburg University. McNew engaged one of the two faculty he’s working with as a result of his interaction with the University.

CEO, Brian McNew, of EarthNet EnergyDr Sairam of Penn State Harrisburg

Matt Steiman of Dickinson College and Dr. Sairam of Penn State Harrisburg both agreed that attending national and regional industry meetings is the best way to make initial contact with potential partners. Both stressed patience and realistic expectations, in addition to, keeping in touch and nurturing the relationship. When the right opportunity presents itself, faculty then have a foundation from which to build and introduce a project.

One passionate point of disagreement across campuses is whether to share or not to share information. Hans Pfister, of Dickinson College, encouraged attendees to get their ideas out of their desks and onto the table. If faculty can test a concept with a trusted private sector partner “everyone wins,” according to Pfister. His track record supports the notion that business partners provide faculty and students with the opportunity to gain valuable insight, market input, and the ability to tweak before attempting commercialization.

Dr. Sairam of Penn State Harrisburg shared his view on collaboration with large, national entities. His private sector and start-up background has aided his negotiations with corporate partners. Defining objectives, signing non disclosures, and “sticking within the parameters of the agreement” are all part of keeping things on track in big business deals.

Despite the high powered brain cells and advanced degrees swirling the room, it was clear that all the research, published materials, and initials behind a name won’t help build successful collaborative relationships without the basic skills of flexibility, outreach, and good old-fashioned communication.

Visit the event photo gallery here:

View the full event video: