If the process of applying for SBIR/STTR funding is like following a complex recipe, one of the many ingredients is obtaining access to facilities, equipment, and specialized expertise. In the earliest stages of commercialization, many small firms just starting out find it helpful to partner with a research institution in order to access what is needed for a strong proposal. In this example, the University of Wisconsin-Madison Advanced Materials Industrial Consortium (UWAMIC) was an ally for an SBIR/STTR awardee, Imbed BioSciences, by working with another Consortium member and fellow early stage firm, Microscopy Innovations, LLC.
The founder of Microscopy Innovations LLC, Dr. Steven Goodman, has been involved with UWAMIC for over six years. The UWAMIC provides access to instrumentation and technical support. The partnership between UWAMIC and his company allows Dr. Goodman to maintain lab space at the Consortium and to contribute his expertise in microscopic sample preparation to fellow members. (In 2012, Dr. Goodman was appointed as an industrial associate in the Materials Science Center, to further extend this mission.) As Goodman explains, “Sample preparation is easily ten times the work of actually using the microscope. What my company does is create laboratory products that improve the quality and efficiency of microscope sample preparation to streamline the research, product development, and clinical diagnoses that depend on microscope imaging.”
Additionally, UWAMIC offers innovators both within and beyond the university access to the shared facilities of the NSF-sponsored UW-Madison Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (MRSEC) and Nanoscale Science and Engineering Center (NSEC). UWAMIC functions on the premise that small businesses and entrepreneurs benefit from the reduced risk and the expenses involved in conducting R&D, while the institution benefits from the introduction of entrepreneurial skills and the transfer of technologies and products from the lab to the commercial marketplace. A significant goal of the federal STTR program is to foster technology transfer through such cooperative R&D between small businesses and research institutions. UWAMIC and its NSF-sponsored centers fulfill the educational and industrial outreach mission of the program.
In one example, Microscopy Innovations was involved in analyzing the structure of the wound dressing being developed by fellow Consortium member and CTC client, Imbed Biosciences Inc., a Madison-based medical device company developing novel, patent-pending technologies for imbedding bioactive molecules in wound dressings and surgical implants. The interaction between Microscopy Innovations and Imbed in the testing and development of Imbed’s antibacterial wound dressing is an example of the multi-institutional collaboration that takes place through the Consortium. Goodman states, “The consortium brings together the industrial users with the leaders in the academic side of the center, so we can learn from each other and improve the quality of the materials that we are developing.”