$525,000 in state matching grants to boost 7 high-tech small businesses

MADISON – Seven small high-tech businesses in Wisconsin will receive up to $75,000 each to commercialize their innovations, thanks to the SBIR Advance program’s latest round of funding.

The state matching grant program provides assistance to companies in the process of completing a project in the .

This is the eighth round of SBIR Advance funding since this collaboration by the and the ) began in 2014. Since then, more than $3.6 million has been awarded to 37 companies throughout the state. Those businesses reported hiring more than 150 employees and obtaining $11.5 million in additional capital since receiving the grants.

The recipients are:

of Madison, which is developing tools and processes for building flexible hybrid electronic and photonic devices; 

of Pewaukee, which is developing low-cost, high-efficiency window glass;

of Madison, which specializes in the metabolic engineering of nonconventional yeasts to produce renewable fuels and other higher-value products;

of Madison, which supplies pancreatic cells for drug research and is developing a therapeutic treatment for diabetes;

of Madison, which transforms woodchips and other biomass into renewable chemicals and advanced materials;

of Madison, which is pioneering development of safe, easy-to-use antimicrobials and disinfectants to destroy bacterial pathogens causing crop loss in agriculture and human infectious diseases; and

of Madison, which is developing next-generation electric motors to improve performance, increase energy efficiency and reduce costs.

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.

“The interest and support for SBIR Advance continue to be strong,” said Dr. Todd Strother, who manages the program. “The investment in these early-stage companies are starting to see returns as the funded companies are working on commercialization and sales. This particular round of applicants was competitive; our reviewers had the difficult task of selecting from many solid proposals.”

For more details on the SBIR Advance program, visit or contact Strother at .

"We often see companies receiving SBIR grants that have made great progress on the technical side but have critical business development milestones they simply don’t have a way to fund,” said Aaron Hagar, vice president of Entrepreneurship and Innovation for WEDC. “Potential investors and customers want to see progress beyond what the federal grants can provide, and SBIR Advance helps to close that critical gap.”

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-Extension’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-Extension’s Division for Business and 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 http://inwisconsin.com; follow on Twitter.

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New course teaches how to make a business case for innovation

MADISON – A new quick course on business development skills for graduate students and early-career scientists is available through the Center for Technology Commercialization.

SBIR Ready is a free month-long program that teaches students how to evaluate an innovative technology idea from multiple angles to make a business case. Upon completion of four 3-hour hands-on workshops, students may take the next step in applying for federal Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)/Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs.

The represent the nation’s largest source of early-stage research and development funding for small businesses. They are administered by the U.S. Small Business Administration in collaboration with 11 federal agencies, who collectively support more than $2.5 billion in funding.

SBIR Ready covers Lean Startup methodology and offers practical experience in such business concepts as market research, planning and budgeting. It also previews the SBIR application process.

Two cohorts are planned so far for 2017: 1. March: Deadline to apply is Feb. 15. Classes will take place from 2 to 5 p.m. Wednesdays, March 8, 15, 22 and 29, concurrently in Milwaukee and Madison; more details to be announced later. 2. August: Deadline to apply is June 30.

“Practicing the concepts of business development in the SBIR framework is a really great combination -- and could result in over $1 million in grants to grow your career and new business,” says Robert Meyer, Ph.D., UW-Madison Professor Emeritus and OptSolv CEO.

Interested individuals can apply for SBIR Ready as an individual or a team at . The webpage also includes a link to the syllabus and additional information.

Contact Outreach Specialist Margaret Ramey for more information at or 414-227-3165.

About The Center for Technology Commercialization

The Center for Technology Commercialization is a unit in the University of Wisconsin-Extension’s Division for Business and Entrepreneurship. CTC provides one-on-one expert consulting to early-stage emerging technology businesses throughout Wisconsin. With offices in Madison and Milwaukee but working all across the state, CTC has collaborated in acquiring more than $100 million in federal and other funding for clients.

NIH SBIR/STTR Myths Busted

The CTC Team attended the 2016 NIH SBIR/STTR Conference in Orlando this November.  A "Myths Busting" break out session covered common questions and misgivings associated with NIH SBIR/STTR. 

  1. Small program (budget) = low success rate.  .  Each NIH institute has its own budget and own interests.If you have an idea that fits the interests of an institute, APPLY!
  2. If you change an institute within NIH it goes to a new review panel.  .  NIH tries to match up past reviewers to keep review consistent.
  3. Do you think NIH didn’t like your technology because of a bad peer review?  .  Peer review counts, but isn’t everything.  If it’s a good technology with a clearly assembled proposal, your technology will be discussed.
  4. Your budget is scoreable and the smaller it is the more likely to be funded.  .
  5. Applying by contract method typically yields a lower award rate.  .  Actually the award rate is slightly higher.
  6. CDC is NOT an institute within the NIH.  .  It is a separate agency within HHS (The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services).
  7. CDC does participate in STTR.  .  The CDC has a small budget of 9 Million for SBIR, but no budget for STTR.  Last year the CDC did not deplete it’s SBIR budget.  Apply small!

If you have questions about SBIR/STTR, NIH or any other agency, contact y or your CTC contact.

Dave Linz wins Tibbetts Award from the Small Business Administration

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Dave Linz, Associate Director for the Center for Technology Commercialization, has earned a prestigious award from the U.S. Small Business Administration for achieving significant economic impact in advancing small technology businesses.

Linz was among five individuals and 37 small businesses honored during a White House ceremony Jan. 10 with Tibbetts Awards for driving innovation and creating jobs through the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs.

Working for the CTC and its predecessor since 2005, Linz has provided technical, marketing, business planning, product development, and financing assistance to more than 600 entrepreneurs in technology and manufacturing businesses across Wisconsin.

“Dave Linz sits atop my list as the most effective and influential business educator/consultant I have had the pleasure to work with,” said Mark Lange, Executive Director of the University of Wisconsin-Extension’s Division of Business & Entrepreneurship, which operates the CTC. “He has an easygoing nature and ability to connect with all types of people from scientists, aspiring business owners and CEOs to community stakeholders, chancellors and economic developers.”

“I am honored and gratified to have this recognition from my colleagues and the SBA,” Linz said. “I look at this as a CTC award and recognition for the whole team, present and past, for all their great work and contributions to Wisconsin's tech businesses. It is my good fortune to work with such an amazing team at CTC, and our wonderful partners." 

The represent the nation's largest source of early stage research and development funding for small businesses. The programs are administered by the SBA in collaboration with 11 federal agencies, who collectively supported more than $2.5 billion in funding.

Linz doesn’t just help companies craft successful SBIR/STTR funding proposals. He teaches scientists how to think like entrepreneurs through the use of Lean Startup best practices that validate business models and understand the market for their products.

Atif Hashmi, CEO of Thalchemy Corp., which develops sensor processing for smartphones, wearables and apps, credits Linz with helping define their customer and, prepare thoroughly for competitive grant applications and follow up that funding with a matching state grant. “Overall, Dave’s guidance has been instrumental in shaping this company.”

In his career, Linz has:

  • Generated nearly $23 million in capital investment.
  • Fostered over 60 new jobs in manufacturing, healthcare, IT, agriculture and energy by helping clients focus on customer needs.    
  • Created SBIR Advance, a state matching fund that has provided 42 grants to Wisconsin SBIR/STTR award recipients.
  • Formed alliances with multiple Milwaukee business development organizations and helped bring the 2017 Health and Human Services SBIR Conference to Milwaukee.
  • Helped launch Ideadvance Seed Fund, combining early-stage grant funding with business mentoring to develop the innovative ideas and potential businesses from UW System faculty, staff and student entrepreneurs.

Most recently, Linz has worked with the CTC team to create a new program called SBIR Ready, which widens the pipeline for SBIR applications by training early-stage scientists and engineers, including those from underrepresented populations.

“He's not only made it better in the state of Wisconsin. He's improved the world because we now have those innovations in the marketplace," said Lisa Johnson, CEO of Bioforward.

Linz earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemical Engineering and a Master of Science degree in Nuclear Engineering from the University of Arizona and Master of Business Administration from Webster University.

About The Center for Technology Commercialization

The Center for Technology Commercialization is a unit in the University of Wisconsin-Extension’s Division for Business and Entrepreneurship. CTC provides one-on-one expert consulting to early-stage emerging technology businesses throughout Wisconsin. With offices in Madison and Milwaukee but working all across the state, CTC has collaborated in acquiring more than $100 million in federal and other funding for clients.

About the Small Business Administration

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) was created in 1953 and since 2012 has served as a Cabinet-level agency of the federal government to aid, counsel, assist and protect the interests of small business concerns, to preserve free competitive enterprise and to maintain and strengthen the overall economy of our nation. The SBA helps Americans start, build and grow businesses.

About the Tibbetts Awards

The Tibbetts Award is named in honor of the late Roland Tibbetts, who was instrumental in developing the SBIR/STTR programs through a career-long dedication to small business entrepreneurship, applied research and technological breakthroughs. See all the SBA winners here: .

 

Top 10 Do's and Don'ts of Phase 1 SBIR Proposal Writing

The CTC Team attended the 2016 NIH SBIR/STTR Conference in Orlando this November.  We will be highlighting some of the interesting facts learned and sessions that we attended during the conference.  First up, Top 10 Do's and Dont's.  This was a FUN yet informative session given by Lisa Kurek, BBCetc.  She was full of energy, as always, and had anecdote after anecdote exemplifying the "duh" moments in SBIR proposal writing.  See below for her Top 10 Do's and Don'ts for Phase I Proposal writing.

Notes from the 2016 NIH SBIR/STTR Conference. Session Top 10 Do's and Don'ts, Presented by

1. DON’T write a RO1.

    DO plan for and tell the whole story. Include a commercialization plan, amount of other funding you’ve received, information about product development and your research team. Tell the WHOLE STORY.

2. DON’T write a Phase 1 as a stand-alone.

    DO highlight Phase 1 in context of your project timeline. Your Phase 1 is a component of a larger project. Use your Phase 1 as your “Feasibility Test”.

3. DON’T be vague about what you hope to get out of your Phase 1.

    DO write milestone specific aims with clear success criteria. Make it clear to the reviewers that you will KNOW when you achieve your aims. Specific Aims = Objective, Tasks = Activities.

4. DON’T be uninformed about relevant literature/research going on in the field you study.

    DO analyze literature and market to demonstrate your knowledge of “state of art” and “state of market”.

5. DON’T write a science fair project.

    DO write a credible commercialization strategy in your Phase 1.

6. DON’T focus only on your PI.

    DO build a good team, include bio-sketches of the team with personal statements.

7. DON’T look like or BE a virtual company.

    DO have company controlled R&D facilities.

8. DON’T over-promise and under deliver on budget.

    DO stay within budget and a propose a plan that will make you likely to do so.

9. DON’T say “trust me”.

    DO validate, support all of your claims that you made in the proposal.

10. DON’T Ignore lessons learned.

      DO Follow every cliché you’ve heard.

BBCetc is an approved Service Provider for CTC.  For more information on BBCetc and their SBIR expertise, visit their website 

SBIR Funding Provides a Clear Advantage to Emerging Energy-Efficient Window Technology

Pewaukee-based is pulling ahead in the race to perfect vacuum insulating glass technology, having just received a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase II grant from the National Science Foundation for over $720,000. This will allow the company to make significant strides in advancing and proof-testing their innovative energy-saving window technology, with the goal of developing a product that is more efficient and less expensive than triple glazed windows. As a typical home loses 30% of its heat through windows and new Environmental Protection Agency Energy Star standards have gone into effect for residential windows in the northern region this year, affordable “windows as warm as a wall” – as the V-Glass slogan proclaims – would revolutionize the architectural industry.

Since it was founded in 2008, V-Glass has been awarded grants totaling over $1,450,000 (including the current award), as well as numerous in-kind contributions of supplies, space and services. V-Glass was also the first place winner for the Advanced Manufacturing Division of the Wisconsin Governor’s Business Plan Competition in 2013. However, the company had to work very hard to achieve this level of support. SBIR grants in particular are highly sought after and the process of completing a competitive application is notoriously difficult, especially for novice entrepreneurs.

According to V-Glass CEO Peter Petit, the company submitted nine SBIR applications before receiving its first successful Phase I award, and then received three more in rapid succession. Additionally, their first three Phase II applications were denied before V-Glass received the award this month. Petit has utilized the services offered by the Center for Technology Commercialization (CTC) for eight years while raising funds to advance research and development, and he largely credits that support and mentorship for his company’s success in acquiring federal funding to continue on their path of discovery.

“[CTC Consultants] know the scoring pattern, and have experience and knowledge about what federal agencies are looking for and the kind of accounting system needed,” stated Petit, who has also received several commercialization-focused grants through the CTC. The Micro-Grant program connects entrepreneurs to professional assistance in writing business and commercialization plans and applications for federal SBIR and STTR (Small Business Technology Transfer) funding, and the SBIR Advance matching grant program provides funding and training for business development and commercialization activities not covered by SBIR/STTR grants.

“SBIR Advance funding was so important to us because it was unencumbered, and federal funds cannot be used for patents,” notes Petit. “It paid for the patent we just won. That’s just the start.”

The V-Glass journey took several turns over the past five years to reach this point. Experiments on edge seals in 2011 led the company to a strategic pivot in 2012 when they began perfecting a method of directly cold-welding aluminum to glass. Following that, further trials led to the realization that pane-spacers were key to high performance, and V-Glass developed a new type of metal ‘whiskers’ for the task, which – while difficult to see by design – space glass panes apart with minimal contact to prevent heat loss while minimizing stresses and bowing. In 2015, while testing their first prototype utilizing this approach at the Technology Innovation Center in Wauwatosa, there was a cold snap; the V-Glass product demonstrated twice the insulating value of triple pane windows in winter conditions. This is the technology V-Glass just patented, and according to Petit it’s the most important milestone the company has reached to date and was fundamental to winning their latest SBIR award.

“Applying for grants has been like a process of filling holes,” explains Petit. “This is our most important patent and it adds the most value to our company…it represents filling another hole. Investors don’t like to invest in companies that don’t have patent protection.”

One remaining hurdle V-Glass is working on is how to eliminate outgassing on sealed off windows, which would cause the vacuum to decay over time. This is the topic of their current Phase II proposal. Petit has also submitted a grant proposal to the Department of Energy to do further work on outgassing control. V-Glass must also complete the testing required by private investors to prove their products are ready for customers without warranty risk, which is a very expensive process.

“Making a commodity like insulating glass for windows is a very capital-intensive business. We still have to meet cost, and cannot let it exceed triple-pane. We have a head start using two panes instead of three,” says Petit. “It would be so helpful if there were a state version of the SBIR program, and I’m lobbying for that.”

CTC helps power the commercialization of C-Motive Technologies' revolutionary new lightweight motor

The CTC helps power the commercialization of C-Motive Technologies revolutionary new lightweight motor. - See more at: http://wisconsinsbir.org/winners#sthash.Zc0zI9vE.dpuf
CTC helps power the commercialization of C-Motive Technologies revolutionary new lightweight motor - See more at: http://wisconsinsbir.org/winners#sthash.Zc0zI9vE.dpuf
CTC helps power the commercialization of C-Motive Technologies revolutionary new lightweight motor - See more at: http://wisconsinsbir.org/winners#sthash.Zc0zI9vE.dpuf

CTC

The CTC helps power the commercialization of C-Motive Technologies revolutionary new lightweight motor. - See more at: http://wisconsinsbir.org/winners#sthash.Zc0zI9vE.dpufA revolutionary new lightweight motor in development by C-Motive Technologies, a startup based in Madison, WI, could change the way machines have run for over a century.  The “C-Machine” is an electric motor that does not use steel, copper or rare earth metals, making it extremely light and capable of providing significant savings in fuel and material costs…features that would make it a game-changer in the manufacturing of electric vehicles and airplanes, among other industries.

A revolutionary new lightweight motor in development by , a startup based in Madison, WI, could change the way machines have run for over a century.  The “C-Machine” is an electric motor that does not use steel, copper or rare earth metals, making it extremely light and capable of providing significant savings in fuel and material costs…features that would make it a game-changer in the manufacturing of electric vehicles and airplanes, among other industries.

So, what has powered the research and development behind the C-Machine?

Founded in 2012 by Dr. Justin Reed and Dr. Dan Ludois, the concepts behind C-Motive Technologies were formed when they were in the Power Engineering graduate program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  While there, several promising “outside the box” ideas led them to pursue patents through the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF) in 2011.  At the same time, C-Motive reached out to the Center for Technology Commercialization (CTC) at the University of Wisconsin-Extension Division for Business and Entrepreneurship for assistance in preparing applications for the federal Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program, which offers highly competitive grant funding to support early stage technological innovation by startups. 

WARF invested in the company and led a round of seed funding in 2013 and, after several attempts, C-Motive also received a Phase I SBIR grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF).  In combination, these two successes provided the resources necessary for C-Motive to fully launch into developing their technologies, growing from prototype to the Beta test phase.  Reed and Ludois also give credit to the Wisconsin School of Business Weinert Applied Ventures in Entrepreneurship (WAVE) program for helping them to make influential connections and meet investors.  Following their Phase I SBIR award, they applied for and received funding from the CTC’s SBIR Advance program to help them advance their technology and further develop a business model that would be competitive in applications for additional federal funding.  Then, in September 2015 they received $721,000 in Phase II SBIR funding from NSF.

“With our Phase I award we achieved a large amount of research that we are still learning from,” noted Reed, now the CEO of C-Motive.  “Then getting Phase II was a huge success – enormous!  Fundraising for hardware development is very labor intensive, and all grants have been enormously helpful.”

Reed is quick to point out that C-Motive’s original SBIR grant applications to the Department of Defense and the Department of Energy were not successful, and that it took a lot of hard work to win the NSF grants.  “It was a gradual learning experience, and we ended up using several CTC resources and the Micro-Grant program.  They [CTC staff and approved service providers] guided writing, did a lot of revisions to our writing, packaged it up.  They had provided a work break-down structure and checklist – way helpful.”

“The SBIR Advance funding for Phase I and the first year of Phase II was also really helpful, it provides more flexibility,” explained Reed.  “You never know, especially with hardware development, there are always surprises along the way that come with an additional cost.  More market research in advance means fewer surprises, and you end up having more money to spend on both the technical and non-technical sides.”

Market research conducted by C-Motive under the CTC’s Lean StartUp class, which is required for SBIR Advance awardees, led C-Motive make a major pivot in the direction of their product development and target market.  Their original Phase I grant was focused on technology specifically to develop large wind turbines.  “We found a lot of challenges with going after that market.  It was just too large to pursue as a small company, and there were a lot of business-related risks with potential customers,” said Reed.  “Our focus is now on industrial automation and advanced manufacturing.”

When asked about the company’s goals for the future, Reed emphasized that C-Motive is currently interested in talking to manufacturers about how the C-Machine can work inside their products or be put to use in their manufacturing lines.  “We are continuing technical research and development and applying for additional grants because we want to accelerate our development.  Electric motor development has been all incremental advances over the past 100 years – up to now.  This is the first time this type of motor has been available.  We want to hire more people and focus on getting our first product out the door.”

CTC assists Radom Corporation commercialize plasma generation device

When a group of Milwaukee engineers realized they could change the way plasma is generated while saving companies millions of dollars, they turned to the Center for Technology Commercialization (CTC) to get their ideas going.

Radom’s road to commercialization began when engineers Jovan Jevtic, Velibar Pikejla and Ashok Menon realized current methods of plasma generation are expensive and inefficient. By substituting nitrogen gas for argon during the process, the team could ensure the plasma-generating devices would run without as much waste.

“We are addressing a market of about 24,000 instruments worldwide that are all founded on the current technology that, in an aggregate sense, ties down about $300 million of working capital that these businesses aren’t able to use because it goes into running the equipment,” Menon said.

Once the three engineers were sure their idea would work, they turned to CTC for help with funding. Radom received a Phase I SBIR grant through the National Science Foundation with the help of CTC.

“Before filing our grant we contacted [CTC Associate Director] David Linz who was really helpful in giving us a lot of the background information we needed to correctly do that filing,” Menon said.

Radom continued to utilize the resources offered by CTC including additional funding, professional partnerships and feedback on business strategies. Some of this funding came directly through CTC’s SBIR Advance program.

“Without the SBIR Advance, we really would not have been able to do what we did in the last six months,” Menon said.

Throughout the process, CTC assisted Radom with their business strategy and targeting a specific market.

“We originally went out into the field thinking we could come up with an instrument addressing the academic market,” Menon said. “It turned out that really wasn’t something they would do.”

After nearly 50 customer interviews, Radom determined their technology would best be suited for use in independent test labs.
“The amount of mentoring we received while developing our business plan and going through the entire program lead us to several pivot points, working in the field and going through one-on-one discussions with the mentors was an incredible value,” Menon said.

As their technology advances closer to commercialization, Radom continues to use CTC’s support.

“We are preparing a grant submission for the Phase II of the NSF,” Menon said. “That grant is for $750,000 and that’s going to help us propel into the next phase.”

The next phase includes a year of product development followed by a year of commercialization efforts. Menon said without CTC and the support of other Wisconsin researchers, their technology would not be where it is today.

“Overall, I thought [working with CTC] was an excellent experience,” Menon said. “It’s incredible how scientifically deep Wisconsin is. It’s not just all beer and cheese. There’s a lot of science going on that people need to appreciate

Simplex Scientific works to improve internal blood loss measurement

When every moment counts, having the right tools to get a job done is essential. Simplex Scientific is creating a powerful new product will allow paramedics to detect internal blood loss before a patient reaches the hospital, something that is essentially impossible with the current technology available.

The new blood loss technology builds on a discovery by Simplex’s Dr. Dennis Bahr that allows blood pressure measurements to be made accurately even during a bumpy ambulance or helicopter ride to a hospital.

“It’s very difficult if they’re in an ambulance and current blood pressure readings can’t be done while moving,” Simplex Scientific president John Peterman said. “The blood pressure technology will solve those problems and by taking other measurements simultaneously, we can use the blood pressure signals to determine loss of blood.”

In order to advance their research, Simplex was awarded a National Institutes of Health Phase I SBIR grant that allowed them to create a piece of equipment that simulated blood loss in patients.

“For our study, we built a lower body negative pressure chamber that simulates blood loss,” Peterman said. “By pulling a slight vacuum on your legs, to your upper body, it is as if you’ve lost blood. We were able to analyze blood pressure and other parameters on about 30 test subjects as bleeding was being simulated.”

The team at Simplex had to also focus on business development along with product research, so they came to the Center of Technology Commercialization (CTC) to learn more about Lean Startup. Peterman said the course gave them a better understanding of how to tailor their product to the market’s needs.

“We interviewed Middleton EMS and discussed what we were thinking and what we thought the product would be and what they think it should be,” Peterman said. “Every paramedic we’ve talked to so far seems quite interested and sees value in the product, so we’re very encouraged it will work out.”

Simplex plans to begin developing a minimal viable product within the next few weeks in order to meet the September deadline for the NIH SBIR Phase II proposal.

“Right now we’re doing interviews with EMS and paramedic groups,” Peterman said. “Once we get through this initial phase of interviews then we’re going to define and start building a minimal viable product. We’re going to have to get a lot done in the coming weeks but when we’re doing these interviews we’d like to put something in their hands so it’s easier to have an idea of what the product will be like.”

In order to make the deadline, Simplex is utilizing an SBIR Advance grant awarded by the CTC to assist their research.

“We think this program makes a lot of sense,” Peterman said. “A lot of SBIR grants have a lot of technology that gets built but it doesn’t end in a product. Already, we have a much better vision to make a product that will be a commercial success.”

Ideadvance helps startup successfully identify lucrative market

Intelligent Composites from UW-Milwaukee placed first in the advanced manufacturing category at the Wisconsin Governor’s Business Plan Contest for their new aluminum composite material that is stronger, stiffer and lighter than traditional alloys.

“Aluminum has been replacing heavy iron and steel in all industries in the last 75 years,” Intelligent Composites chief marketing officer Christ Jordan said at the competition. “We have come up with a way to make a composite material that is very similar to aluminum but is better in almost every way.”

When applied to an internal combustion engine, the composite material allows it to run more efficiently with less energy loss due to friction.

“If you can reduce surface friction by one percent throughout the entire nation, it doesn’t sound like a lot but when you extrapolate that, you would save more than one billion liters of fuel annually worldwide,” Intelligent Composites engineer Simon Beno said.

Jordan said the company’s original intent was to sell their specialty-made parts to car manufacturers because of their ability to cut down on fuel consumption and energy loss, but had to come up with a new plan after hitting a few roadblocks.

“We’d like to be in every car and truck, every commercial vehicle,” Jordan said. “What we found is there is a lot of federal regulations that prevent a new company from getting into that marketplace so found the power sports market. What that is ATVs, snowmobiles and personal watercraft.”

Instead of fighting the strict regulations and long test trials in the automotive market, Intelligent Composites decided to circumvent them altogether and find a market that would be willing to try their product: racers and risk-takers.

“About ten percent of all people who own [power sport vehicles] are concerned with going faster,” Jordan said. “They want to go faster than their friends or in their races because it brings them more money or more prestige. What we found from these risk-takers is that they are willing to try a product from a new company without proven test results.”

Jordan attributes Lean Startup training his team underwent while participating in CTC’s Ideadvance program for this decision.

“Reality turns out to be a little different than what you think when you start a business,” Jordan said. “A common error for a new business is that they do not do customer discovery and look at things analytically. I felt that the Lean Startup business plan gave us tools not just for this project, but any situation where you are trying to sell something.”

The team followed the Lean Startup practice of contacting customers directly and asking about their needs, problems, and wishes. This is when the team realized the opportunities available in the power sports market.

“We didn’t find out about the niche market of racers and racing enthusiasts until we performed discovery interviews,” Jordan said. “We went into different power sports dealerships and machine shops and talked to owners, workers and users, which helped us identify that market.”

Moving forward, Intelligent Composites plans to spend time conducting further tests of their material in order to have hard test data to present to potential clients. Companies including Oshkosh Truck, Bombardier Inc. and Mercury Marine have already expressed interest in implementing Intelligent Composite’s technology into their engines and compressors.

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