Wanted: Innovative business ideas for 2019 Ideadvance Seed Fund

 

 

 

 

MADISON, Wis. – Ideadvance Seed Fund is inviting innovators with current or past ties to the UW System to apply to the program with business ideas that could contribute to Wisconsin’s “knowledge economy.” 

The Ideadvance program provides business funding and mentoring toward a scalable, profitable business model. Grant dollars are earned by teams after they demonstrate key learnings toward their commercialization goals.  

Last year’s awards went to a range of ideas, from scaled-up specialty food businesses to fledgling smarter recycling programs.

The deadline to apply is April 19. Diverse teams from all parts of Wisconsin are invited to connect early to take advantage of resources that can guide them through the application process. An introductory  video and hands-on assistance from Ideadvance consultants are available. 

The program is open to UW System staff, faculty, students and alumni. At this time, teams consisting of only UW-Madison founders are not able to apply. However, hybrid teams with founders that include key members from eligible UW System schools are welcome to compete.   

Ideadvance, launched in 2014, has awarded grants to 56 Stage 1 teams and 19 Stage 2 teams, totaling over $2.4 million in funding. Stage 1, with funding up to $25,000, focuses on achieving commercialization milestones to reduce risk and determine need in the marketplace to solve a problem. Stage 2, with follow-on funding up to $50,000, helps a select few to advance their business models to deliver customer solutions and attract investors.  

“More than the idea, Ideadvance focuses on learning and execution strategies,” Ideadvance New Idea Concierge Idella Yamben said.“From a team with a new idea to an existing startup with sales, Ideadvance meets awardees where they are and helps them identify actionable milestones to take the next step.” 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Luis Rivera, founder and CEO of  (TAHPI), credits the Ideavance program for his company’s success. TAHPI has taken a new approach to first responders’ safety and continues to grow and create new product lines. “TAHPI would definitely not be where it’s at now had we not won that grant, had I not learned the process,” Rivera said.  

Awards are determined by an Investment Committee with representatives from UW System, WiSys Technology Foundation, the Center for Technology Commercialization, Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) and an entrepreneur affiliated with an eligible UW campus. The committee selects proposals with a compelling case for a significant solution to a market problem and a dedicated team focused on learning about risks to their business model. The committee also focuses on the skills and preparedness of the team. 

Although high-tech ideas are welcome, entrepreneurs do not need to present a biotech or information technology. The types of eligible businesses are very broad, including ideas in agriculture, manufacturing, music production, textiles, art or business. The only restrictions are that the business cannot be in real estate, direct consumer retail or hospitality, including restaurants.  

Ideadvance is part of WEDC’s effort to expand collaboration with the UW System, business leaders and others throughout the state. Through their special S3 initiative, WEDC is removing commercialization barriers by providing financial and operational assistance for business startup and seed-funding challenges.  

“Ideadvance is a critical tool for moving ideas from the academic setting and into the business world,” said Aaron Hagar, vice president of entrepreneurship and innovation for WEDC, the state’s lead economic development organization. “Many of the participants are students, faculty and staff that don’t have business experience or training necessary to successfully capitalize on their innovations and creativity. The academic environment is very different from the world of startups, and Ideadvance helps to bridge the gap that often prevents good ideas from becoming successful businesses.” 

To apply, go to . For more information, contact Idella Yamben, New Idea Concierge, at  or 608-263-3315. 

 

About The Center for Technology Commercialization

The Center for Technology Commercialization is a unit in the University of Wisconsin System Administration’s Institute for Business & Entrepreneurship. CTC provides one-on-one expert consulting to early-stage emerging technology businesses throughout Wisconsin. CTC has collaborated in acquiring more than $100 million in federal and other funding for clients. Learn more at ; follow on Twitter.

About The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation

WEDC leads economic development efforts for the state by providing resources, operational support and financial assistance to companies, partners and communities in Wisconsin. Working with more than 600 partners across the state, including regional economic development organizations, academic institutions and industry clusters, WEDC develops and delivers solutions that help businesses, communities and people maximize their potential In Wisconsin. Learn more at ; follow on Twitter.

$875,000 in state matching grants advance 10 high-tech small businesses

MADISON – Ten small businesses in Wisconsin will receive matching grants to commercialize their innovations, thanks to the SBIR Advance program’s latest round of funding. Five businesses, selected for Phase I, will receive up to $75,000 each, and five Phase II businesses will receive up to $100,000.

The state matching grant program provides assistance to companies in the process of completing a project in the . This is the 13th round of SBIR Advance funding since this collaboration by the and the began in 2014.

Since 2014, 88 awards have been given, equaling nearly $6.7 million throughout the state. Those businesses reported hiring more than 180 employees and obtaining over $29.5 million in additional capital since receiving the grants.

Phase I recipients:

  •  of Madison develops cell culture microplates and assays that support cell-to-cell communications for the drug development and toxicity testing markets;
  • Protein Foundry, LLC of Milwaukee manufactures proteins for use in biomedical research and preclinical drug development. Their mission is to provide the highest quality recombinant proteins in terms of chemical purity, structural homogeneity and functional potency;
  • Pyran, LLC of Madison manufactures 1,5-pentanediol (1,5-PDO), a key chemical used to make paints and plastics. Pyran’s patented process uses renewable wood and crop waste resources to make 1,5-PDO at less than 50 percent of the costs of competing oil-based processes;
  • of Fitchburg offers unique biomaterials for cell and tissue manufacturing. Applications include medical devices for drug discovery, cell therapy and regenerative medicine; and
  • Universal Real Time Power Conversion, LLC of New Berlin is developing a multi-functional power conversion solution with high frequency and bandwidth to support power hardware in loop simulation and to achieve compact low-cost energy-efficient power systems in aircraft/shipboard/micro grid applications.

Phase II recipients:

  • of Madison. Provides high-throughput, high-performance computing software solutions in computer-aided engineering;
  • of Milwaukee provides advanced technology to reduce the size and cost of energy storage systems;
  • of Madison specializes in engineering and optimizing new diamond and diamond-like carbon (DLC) coatings for improving new applications across many industries, including medical device, aerospace, defense and oil/gas;
  •  of Middleton is an agricultural biotechnology company that has created a method of advanced protein and antibody manufacturing in plants by engineering leaf structures, called glandular secreting trichomes, to produce, purify, and deliver target proteins directly to leaf surfaces for easy and economical harvests; and
  • of Pewaukee, which is developing low-cost, high-efficiency window glass.

“SBIR Advance is an important tool to help young technology-focused businesses move from the pure research phase into business development, sales, and growth,” said Aaron Hagar, Vice President of Entrepreneurship and Innovation at WEDC, the state’s lead economic development organization. “Wisconsin is one of the top states for companies securing SBIR funding, and we are excited to provide this needed assistance to capitalize on the federal dollars coming into the state.”

The U.S. government created SBIR/STTR programs to stimulate domestic high-tech innovation, providing $2.5 billion in federal research funding each year. Because those funds cannot be used for commercialization activities, the SBIR Advance program fills the gap. Funds can be used to pursue market research, customer validation, intellectual property work or other areas that speed commercialization.

SBIR Advance grant recipients receive CTC staff support available throughout the commercialization process, including Lean Startup training, business plan review and other consulting.

“SBIR Advance continues to be an integral part of success for our Wisconsin companies. Our programming for Phase I companies allows them to better prepare a Phase II application, and our winning Phase II companies are able to address critical business issues that lead them to earlier commercialization. We are seeing this being recognized at the national level, where Wisconsin is highly ranked in SBIR grant success,” said Dr. Todd Strother, Program Manager.

For more details on the SBIR Advance program, visit or e-mail . The next solicitation is expected in late summer.

SBIR Advance is part of a Start-Seed-Scale (S3) initiative WEDC is pursuing with the help of the UW System and other business leaders throughout the state to remove barriers to high-tech commercialization. Under the S3 umbrella, WEDC and its economic development partners are implementing financial and operational assistance programs designed specifically to address Wisconsin’s business startup and seed-funding challenges. Another S3 collaborative effort between WEDC and the UW System is the Ideadvance Seed Fund, also managed by UW System Administration’s CTC. Selected SBIR Advance participants undergo Ideadvance Lean Startup training that is modified to assist with their SBIR Phase II applications.

About The Center for Technology Commercialization

The Center for Technology Commercialization is a unit in the University of Wisconsin System Administration’s Institute for Business & Entrepreneurship. CTC provides one-on-one expert consulting to early-stage emerging technology businesses throughout Wisconsin. CTC has collaborated in acquiring more than $100 million in federal and other funding for clients. Learn more at ; follow on Twitter.

About The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) leads economic development efforts for the state by advancing and maximizing opportunities in Wisconsin for businesses, communities and people to thrive in a globally competitive environment. Working with more than 600 regional and local partners, WEDC develops and delivers solutions representative of a highly responsive and coordinated economic development network. Learn more at ; follow on Twitter.

 

 

Show me the money! The Importance of Budget Preparation.

After spending months planning your experiments and detailing your approach, you are now ready for the budget.  WRONG!  A common mistake in preparing an SBIR is to put off budget planning to one of the last tasks. Many reviewers will look first at the budget as your financial abstract assessing if it makes sense with your overall summary and proposed specific aims. Before you get too in the weeds with writing, draft your budget and see if it makes sense with your proposed scientific aims and timeline. The budget can be a key to telling reviewers you understand what it takes to complete your project.

Consider these comments from reviewers as you prepare your budget.  Want more guidance?  to help you be proactive in budget planning.

  • Is $150K (or $225K) enough? Remember you only have about 6 months for a phase 1 project.  Innovators often propose lofty experimental goals and crunch them into the 6 month time frame.  Instead, have a focused project that shows the reviewer successful outcomes address the question of feasibility. 
  • I think they need more personnel. With tight timelines, leveraging collaborators, consultants and other temporary resources can be the key to making a project work. Augmenting the skills of your core team with other staff provides the skills and team credibility your project may need without the expense of permanent staff.
  • How will they keep the lights on? This is a grant to a small business. You have to include costs for rent, internet, utilities and so on.  The indirect fees from your grant may offset these costs.  Showing reviewers that you have access and can pay for the right facilities lends credibility to your proposal. To help mitigate these costs, consider unique arrangements with other businesses and university space rental agreements.  The CTC can suggest options other clients have utilized in the past.

Your SBIR budget should reflect the goals of your project and supports focused project that could demonstrate the innovative and commercial potential of your technology. 

 

Planning to submit? What you should be doing NOW!

I often get calls from clients who wish to submit an SBIR/STTR grant with a deadline only a couple of weeks or even days away.  Not realizing the amount of time and effort needed to put together a winning proposal is one of the biggest mistakes we see.  I’ve had people tell me that they should be able to knock out a 15-page proposal “this weekend,” and have it ready for a deadline on Tuesday.  For those of you with experience, you know that is really impossible to do. 

So what should someone be doing NOW and how early should they start before a deadline?  My advice is that it is ideal that an inexperienced grant writer start as much as 3 months before the deadline.  If you want to submit and SBIR/STTR to NSF in December or NIH in January, NOW is the best time to be getting prepared.  Here is a list of some things to be getting done:

  1. Get your registrations in order.  These sometimes take 4 weeks to complete
  2. Prepare an executive summary.  This can go to a program manager, but also give you a good idea of what your project is about.
  3. Contact a program manager.  Some agencies go ‘silent’ a month before the deadline, so you won’t be able to talk with them after that date.  It’s best to bounce your idea off of them as soon as you have an executive summary.
  4. Get collaborators on board.  You will need letters from them, and letters tend to languish on other people’s desk (like their legal department) for weeks.  I’ve seen many cases where a letter promised was not submitted in time because the collaborator forgot or had it get stuck in bureaucracy.
  5. so we can help!!

Things always seem to take longer than you expect, such as that proposal draft or budget from a collaborator, so plan for delays.  If you realize that you just don’t have the time to put together a good proposal be comforted that there is another deadline coming up and you are well prepared with an early start for that next one.

Access more tips and tricks articles .

Wisconsin ranks third in winning health and life science business grants

MADISON – Wisconsin’s early-stage health and life science firms and the Center for Technology Commercialization (CTC) received national attention for the state’s success over the past decade in landing competitive federal grants.  

Wisconsin ranked third after Oregon and Vermont in securing funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) from 2008-2017. The 23 percent win rate for applications (248 awards from 1,056 submissions) resulted in $87 million invested in the state’s entrepreneurial efforts. 

The, a national nonprofit organization,  Jan. 3, 2019, and cited CTC’s support in boosting clients through its training programs.  

“We are fortunate to work with talented inventors and innovators from all over the state who are making a difference in their fields, from biotech to manufacturing to agriculture,” said CTC Associate Director Dave Linz. “The high success rate is evidence that CTC’s portfolio of programming helps clients access the business skills and resources important for funding across all 11 agencies with SBIR/STTR funding.” 

“The success rate for NIH awards demonstrates not just the level of innovation in Wisconsin, but also the grasp our entrepreneurs have on the important nuances that differentiate successful opportunities from the average,” said Aaron Hagar, vice president of entrepreneurship and innovation at Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC). “SBIR awards are incredibly competitive, much like the business world, and this is a strong indication that Wisconsin is on the path to more successful tech companies that have what it takes to thrive.”  

SBIR Ready, a monthlong introductory immersion course, was cited as an example of CTC’s offerings. Applications for 2019’s SBIR Ready cohort are due in May. To learn more, go to 

Another important program is SBIR Advance, one of the few matching grant programs for SBIR/STTR recipients in the nation. Developed with support from WEDC, the matching grant program fills critical funding gaps for market research, customer validation, patent validation and business model development. 

 to bring in a CEO with startup and industry experience, Karen Caswelch.

“We needed some business direction and a team member with business expertise who would be willing to take the type of risk I was asking them to take,” said Praveen Yadav, chief technology officer at SciArt Software, which announced in October that it raised $530,000 through the Idea Fund of La Crosse.    

Thirteen rounds of SBIR Advance funding since 2014 have funded 78 awards totaling nearly $6 million. Those businesses across the state reported hiring more than 175 employees and obtaining over $24 million in additional capital since receiving the grants.  

The next round of SBIR Advance funding will open in August 2019.  To learn more, go to 

Wisconsin companies that apply for the $2.5 billion in SBIR/STTR grants available each year fare well and are at least twice as likely to secure funding when they take advantage of CTC services, which include free consulting and microgrants to advance nascent firms in the biotech, manufacturing, food/agriculture, IT and other industries.  

In fiscal years 2014-17, NIH SBIR/STTR applicants working with CTC had a 42 percent success rate with $31.4 million in awards versus 19 percent for all NIH applications from Wisconsin during that time. 

NIH is one of 11 federal agencies that distribute SBIR/STTR funding. CTC’s success rate for all agency applications in fiscal years 2014-17 was 63 percent, bringing $56.3 million into the state. Nationally,  the success rate for applications was 22 percent in 2015, the latest year for which data is available on .

UPDATE, Jan. 31, 2019: 

 

About the Center for Technology Commercialization

The Center for Technology Commercialization is part of the University of Wisconsin System Administration’s Institute for Business & Entrepreneurship. CTC provides one-on-one expert consulting to early-stage emerging technology businesses throughout Wisconsin. CTC has collaborated in acquiring more than $100 million in federal and other funding for clients. Learn more at ; follow on Twitter.

About the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) leads economic development efforts for the state by advancing and maximizing opportunities in Wisconsin for businesses, communities and people to thrive in a globally competitive environment. Working with more than 600 regional and local partners, WEDC develops and delivers solutions representative of a highly responsive and coordinated economic development network. Learn more at ; follow on Twitter.

Make beginning a 1st draft less daunting with these simple steps

Don’t know where to start?? 
Follow our guide to building the first draft of your SBIR proposal.
  1. Relax and breathe.
  2. Read through the solicitation and proposal preparation instructions quickly.
  3. Write down answers to my 20 questions below.  These should be easy for you to answer and will get you started thinking about what to write and what is important.
  4. After you write out answers, go to the template for this agency. If you don't have a template then create your own using the proposal section outline and format given in the agency solicitation and proposal preparation guidance (every agency has one).  Put in all the headings and any section description info and create space to add text.  Wherever you can, paste your answers to the 20+ questions into the template wherever it makes the most sense.  Add a little more detail or background info to make the story flow and more clear.
  5. There, you have a first rough draft
  6. to review and we will discuss what is needed to turn it into a better draft.

 

  1. What is the problem being addressed? 
  2. What is your solution?
  3. What approaches have been used before?  How is it done today?  What alternatives have been tried before?
  4. What are the shortfalls of state of the art and other alternative approaches?
  5. How do you overcome the shortfalls?
  6. What makes your approach unique, different?
  7. What is your secret sauce, what is the innovation that makes your approach workable?
  8. How do you know it will work?
  9. What is the benefit of your approach, qualitative and quantitative?
  10. What is the value to the user/customer?  Quantify when it is commercialized broadly, what will be total impact for users, for military? For USA economy (5 E's - economy, employment, energy, environment, exports)?
  11. Who are the actual users/customers and where/how do they buy the current solution?
  12. Who are potential users that will be major customers and could be reviewers now and test sites in Phase 2?
  13. Who are potential strategic partners who could be reviewers now, test site partners in Phase 2, and commercialization partners in Phase 3?
  14. What are the outstanding issues today that must be researched, developed and demonstrated to show this is feasible?
  15. What are the 3 key questions that must be answered in Phase 1 to show feasibility?
  16. What are the performance requirements for Phase 2 that are necessary for technical and commercial success?
  17. How will you study the 3 key questions in Phase 1?  What is your technical approach?  What is your test plan?  How do you know your test plan will adequately address the 3 key questions?  What facilities and expertise do you need to adequately answer the questions?
  18. If Phase 1 successfully demonstrates feasibility, what will be necessary to do in phase 2 to develop and test a "near commercial" version of the technology?
  19. Who is the principal investigator?  Research team? 
  20. Test facilities?  Technical advisers?  Commercial advisers?

CTC is here to guide and support you through this process.  Request a with us or reach out for help.

AG-TECH Innovation Summit and USDA SBIR Workshop Agenda

I-CORPS INDUSTRY CONNECT AGENDA

AG-TECH INNOVATION SUMMIT

USDA SBIR Workshop

March 5-6, 2019

ENTERPRISEWORKS & I-HOTEL CONFERENCE CENTER, CHAMPAIGN, IL

 

to attend the MWIN Industry Connect event in conjunction with the Ag Tech Summit. 

After for the MWIN Industry Connect event, check out the agenda for the

In a coordinated event, Enterprise Works will be organizing a on applying for SBIR grants from the USDA.  This event has a separate registration

For more information, contact Howard Gerwin, Associate Director of Technology Acceleration at .

Supplemental NIH Funding Opportunities

Supplemental and additional  funding opportunities exist for SBIR/STTR awardees.  The National Institutes of Health has several such opportunities.

Below are some NIH opportunities you can consider for additional and alternative funding:

  1.  I-Corps: The NIH continues to fund the I-Corps program under FOA .This provides up to $55,000 in funding that includes an 8-week hands on training program to help commercialize NIH funded technologies.The program is specifically designed to build entrepreneurial skills and confidence in the business model and validate key commercial hypotheses to improve the likelihood of commercialization.
  1. Post-Phase II support: are available as continuation of Phase II funding for projects that require more time and effort than typical. Projects funded can be for drugs, vaccines, medical devices or implants as well as other projects that require more substantial research funding.The awards can be up to $1million a year for 3 years.
  1. Diversity: Funds are available to help promote diversity in R&D. These programs provide administrative supplement funds to small businesses for recruiting and supporting students, postdoctorates, and others from groups that are underrepresented in health-related research. Funding can range from $5000 to more than $100,000.Two such programs are and
  1. Technical assistance funding: The allows applicants access to resources for providing market data. The 9-month provides expertise and industry connections managed through Larta inc.  Both programs provide these services at no cost to the selected SBIR companies. Choose not to participate in Niche or CAP? You can request additional Niche Assessment or CAP funds on their SBIR application budget. These funds will be increased in 2019 to $6500 for Phase I companies and $50,000 for Phase II companies.

As always, with questions about these opportunities or for help with your applications!

 

$625,000 in state matching grants advance 8 high-tech small businesses

$625,000 in state matching grants advance 8 high-tech small businesses

MADISON – Eight innovative small businesses in Wisconsin will receive matching grants to commercialize their innovations, thanks to the SBIR Advance program’s latest round of funding. Seven businesses, selected for Phase I, will receive up to $75,000 each, and one Phase II business will receive up to $100,000.

The state matching grant program provides assistance to companies in the process of completing a project in the . This is the 12th round of SBIR Advance funding since this collaboration by the and the began in 2014.

Since then, 78 awards have been given, equaling nearly $6 million throughout the state. Those businesses reported hiring more than 175 employees and obtaining over $24 million in additional capital since receiving the grants.

Phase I recipients:

  • of Madison is dedicated to the development of advanced quantitative MRI test objects (“phantoms”) that meet the needs of the MR clinical and research community. Their mission is to build phantoms that facilitate clinical trials, quality assurance, and the development and testing of new quantitative imaging biomarkers;
  • of DePere specializes in the design, engineering and manufacture of compact heat exchangers and heat exchange reactors targeted for high temperature and pressure applications such as Brayton-cycle supercritical CO2 power systems, treatment and recycling of fracking wastewater and process intensification for energy and chemical markets;
  • CyteGen of Wauwatosa develops and commercializes innovative biologic therapies against mitochondrial and neurodegenerative diseases. A massive unmet medical need exists for patients afflicted with these diseases;
  • of Madison is building an advanced AI+data technology so that everyday business users can get meaningful insights from data by simply holding a conversation in English with the platform. DataChat democratizes the power of data and AI to everyone, including and especially to those who are not majors in statistics, math or computer science;
  • of Wauwatosa has been devoted to developing various nanotechnology-based electronic sensors since 2009. NanoAffix is currently working to empower citizens with a low-cost, easy-to-use handheld tester for rapid testing of lead in tap water;
  • of Shorewood aims to help power the wireless world while making it a safer place for users of lithium ion batteries. SafeLi’s novel, patented material, Graphene Monoxide, has the potential to disrupt the lithium battery market by doubling the lifetime of these batteries and charging them six times faster; and
  • Voximetry, LLC of Middleton is an early-stage healthcare technology company that specializes in commercializing improvements related to nuclear medicine dosimetry. The patient-specific approach can accurately predict efficacy and adverse effects of radiopharmaceutical therapy.

Phase II recipient:

  • of Marshfield  provides sample preparation technologies used in microscopy laboratories for clinical pathology, drug development and basic research. Their mPrep™ System has improved workflows for specimens from Ebola virus to renal biopsies.

“SBIR Advance will play a vital role in enabling these eight businesses – and others like them in future rounds of funding – to take the next important steps toward commercialization for their innovations,” said Aaron Hagar, WEDC Vice President of Entrepreneurship and Innovation. “This program serves to bridge that gap between laboratory research and a market-ready product, which is crucial to creating an environment that welcomes new business development and attracts global investors to our state.”

The U.S. government created SBIR/STTR programs to stimulate domestic high-tech innovation, providing $2.5 billion in federal research funding each year. Because those funds cannot be used for commercialization activities, the SBIR Advance program fills the gap. Funds can be used to pursue market research, customer validation, intellectual property work or other areas that speed commercialization.

SBIR Advance grant recipients receive CTC staff support available throughout the commercialization process, including Lean Startup training, business plan review and other consulting.

“SBIR Advance has allowed companies to validate their business hypothesis that can lead to their ultimate success. As one of the few states that provide this assistance, we have garnered interest not only from other states but also from outside companies who are interested in moving to Wisconsin because of this program,” stated Dr. Todd Strother, Program Manager.

For more details on the SBIR Advance program, visit or e-mail . The next solicitation opens in January.

SBIR Advance is part of a Start-Seed-Scale (S3) initiative WEDC is pursuing with the help of the UW System and other business leaders throughout the state to remove barriers to high-tech commercialization. Under the S3 umbrella, WEDC and its economic development partners are implementing financial and operational assistance programs designed specifically to address Wisconsin’s business startup and seed-funding challenges. Another S3 collaborative effort between WEDC and the UW System is the Ideadvance Seed Fund, also managed by UW System Administration’s CTC. Selected SBIR Advance participants undergo Ideadvance Lean Startup training that is modified to assist with their SBIR Phase II applications.

About The Center for Technology Commercialization

The Center for Technology Commercialization is a unit in the University of Wisconsin System Administration’s Institute for Business & Entrepreneurship. CTC provides one-on-one expert consulting to early-stage emerging technology businesses throughout Wisconsin. CTC has collaborated in acquiring more than $100 million in federal and other funding for clients. Learn more at ; follow on Twitter.

About The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) leads economic development efforts for the state by advancing and maximizing opportunities in Wisconsin for businesses, communities and people to thrive in a globally competitive environment. Working with more than 600 regional and local partners, WEDC develops and delivers solutions representative of a highly responsive and coordinated economic development network. Learn more at ; follow on Twitter.

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Wastewater innovation reduces negative public health impact

        

While pursuing her engineering studies, Paige Peters creates a business that treats wastewater 16x faster

 

For Paige Peters, studying environmental engineering was always part of the plan. Starting her own business was not.

In addition to being the founder and CEO of Milwaukee-based firm Rapid Radicals Technology, Peters, 30, is currently pursuing a PhD from Marquette University in civil engineering with an emphasis on water and wastewater treatment. Her lifelong passion for water, when combined with the “engineering mind” she displayed even as a child, meant environmental engineering was a perfect fit.

“For me, what I love about water is that it affects everybody,” Peters said, “so for someone who loves people so much and loves making those relationships and building those connections, it made the most sense to do water: It affects everybody’s life every single day.”

After graduating with a bachelor of science degree from Marquette in civil engineering, Peters returned in 2015 to get her master’s under Dr. Dan Zitomer, focusing on combined sewer overflows and wastewater treatment. At that time, she realized she and Dr. Zitomer had found a potential solution to a problem that plagued not just Milwaukee but cities across the country.

Combined sewer systems, a model commonly used in the Great Lakes region, carry sanitary water and storm water in the same pipe, which means the water must get treated before being discharged. However, treatment centers can only handle so much water, so in the event of heavy rainfall, combined sewers may overflow -- discharging waste into lakes and rivers or even into people’s basements.

“You trust [the system] is going to lead that waste away from you.” Peters said. “It’s a public health and environmental health issue.”

Peters aimed to solve the problem by shortening wastewater treatment time for combined sewers from eight hours to under 30 minutes – 16 times faster. This technology became the foundation for Rapid Radicals Technology, which Peters founded halfway through the second year of her master’s. If she successfully commercializes, Peters’ system would be the first of its kind in Milwaukee. Peters is currently working on building the first pilot.

“I was willing to take it on, because it sounded like a really fun adventure. I think this has been the best way to go about it,” Peters said.

Much of what motivated Peters to dive into entrepreneurship was the variety of resources available to those looking to start a business in Wisconsin – including young PhD students with no experience in business.

One of those resources was the SBIR Ready program, which Peters discovered through her participation in and her relationship with Marquette University. The provided Peters with the essential education and tools to help her apply for and win federal Small Business Innovation Research funding for her technology to advance her company.

to tap into assistance programs and to build relationships with people who can advocate for them.

 “When it came to starting a company, I didn’t know anything. My initial approach was to reach out to everybody with anything that I knew existed in terms of resources,” Peters said. “What I found in return was that there are so many resources available to you, and that everybody wants to help.”

“At the end of the day, it’s on you to move things forward. But you’re doing it wrong if you feel like you’re alone the whole time,” Peters said.

Balancing her PhD work and her business would seem like two hefty and competing challenges. Peters sees it as her motivation instead.

“The problem my work is seeking to solve needs a solution faster than if the academic and entrepreneurial worlds continue operating independent of one other,” she said. “I see the inherent value of them working together for more effective and efficient tech transfer. They operate under different priorities and different timelines, but they do truly complement each other. Every time we do something new or innovative, we make it easier for the next person to go down a similar path.”

 

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