November 17, 2010

Program helps move innovation ideas to market

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Southern Illinois University Carbondale faculty and staff are benefiting from a program designed to help them commercialize their research and innovation technologies.

During the 12-week Operation Mousetrap program, participants meet weekly to hear various experts discuss relevant topics essential to technology commercialization and entrepreneurship. The group members will make their final presentations and receive certificates signifying their completion of the program Friday, Nov. 19, at the Dunn-Richmond Economic Development Center.

Media Advisory

Reporter, photographers and camera crews are welcome to cover the Operation Mousetrap entrepreneurial technology transfer program achievement ceremony at 2 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 19, in Room 241 at the Dunn-Richmond Economic Development Center. John Koropchak, vice chancellor for research and graduate dean, will present certificates of achievement to participants completing the program. Several participants will also be available to discuss their research and technology innovations.

Discussions have focused on testing innovations and business concepts, exploring entrepreneurship, identifying funding sources and working with investors, protecting intellectual property and businesses, planning to succeed financially and much more. Hurley Myers, founder of DxR Development group and SIUC faculty emeritus, discussed entrepreneurship while David Gulley, an SIUC alumnus who is assistant vice chancellor for research at the University of Illinois-Chicago, spoke of building an organizational team. Ari Bai, partner in the St. Louis law firm of Polsinelli Shughart PC, explained how they could protect their intellectual property. These are just a few of the enlightening and informative sessions Operation Mousetrap provided.

“In addition to attending weekly programs, Operation Mousetrap participants have been working with their business coaches to further develop their elevator pitches, investor presentations and business plans. The one-on-one coaching aspect of the program allows us to customize the business assistance to each participant’s stage in the commercialization process,” said Lynn Andersen Lindberg, director of business innovation and research at SIUC.

The program works primarily with technology and life science researchers to help them bring their innovations from the concept stage to the marketplace. With the program’s emphasis on intellectual property, some participants are already seeking patents for their work.

“The ultimate goal of the program is to increase the University’s commercialization successes, both through licensing opportunities and technology-based startup companies in Southern Illinois,” said Kyle Harfst, SIUC director of technology and enterprise development.

Harfst and Lindberg saw the need for an entrepreneurship program for the University’s faculty and staff researchers and scientists. Mark Petrilli, state director of the Illinois Small Business Development Center, embraced the idea as well, providing partial funding for the inaugural session in spring 2010 and this fall through the Illinois Small Business Development Center at SIUC. The participants received scholarships, valued at about $1,500, to be part of the program.

“A new aspect for this semester’s program is working with MBA students in John Fraedrich’s marketing management class to provide secondary marketing research to the Operation Mousetrap participants. This information is assisting them in fine-tuning the market segments of their investor presentations. Students in Maryon King’s innovation class, along with several graduate and undergraduate assistants, have also provided market research assistance to the participants,” Andersen Lindberg said.

The program utilizes FastTrac TechVenture, an entrepreneurship and business program from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. The foundation fosters entrepreneurship throughout the country via such programs, giving people the essential tools for developing or enhancing their skills to enable them to better utilize and market technology.

Partnering to provide the SIUC program are the College of Business Center for Innovation, Illinois Small Business Development Center, Small Business Incubator Program and the Southern Illinois Research Park. Coaches for the fall session of the program include: Harfst, Maryon King, associate professor of marketing and director of the College of Business Center for Innovation; and Jonathon Mote, assistant professor of management.

All of the hard work and innovation instruction culminate Friday as each of the researchers and scientists makes PowerPoint investor presentations, gives 90-second elevator (funding solicitation) pitches and discusses their business plans. Then at 2 p.m., John Koropchak, vice chancellor for research and graduate dean, will award certificates of completion to those finishing the program.

Operation Mousetrap graduates are eligible for three months of free rent at the Dunn-Richmond Economic Development Center through the Small Business Incubator Program and can get additional business and technical assistance there.

“We will continue to work with these six participants, as well as the nine from the spring Operation Mousetrap program, on the next phases of their commercialization and entrepreneurial activities. This includes ongoing business coaching as well as follow-up workshops and seminars. Plans are under way for the third program to start in January 2011,” Harfst said.

Participating in the second Operation Mousetrap program are:

• Aldwin Anterola, assistant professor, plant biology.

• Nazeih Botros, professor, electrical and computer engineering.

• Bruce DeRuntz, associate professor, technology/engineering.

• Peter Filip, director, Center for Advanced Friction Studies.

• Andrei Kolmakov, associate professor, physics.

• Stephen Shih, professor and school director, information systems and applied technologies.