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New Technology Accelerator Bridges Start-Ups From Innovation to Commercialization

Michael Alt, Director, Eastman Business Park (Fall 2011)
A national consortium of leaders in government, business, and academia has established a new technology accelerator to help move middle-stage companies from innovation to commercialization. The consortium, known as the Innovation and Materials Science Institute, includes organizations across a range of disciplines to help middle-stage technology companies fast-track new products to market. Current members are the National Renewable Energy Lab, representing government; Eastman Kodak Company, CG Innovation Partners, TechVision21, and Novomer, representing business; and Stanford and Rochester Institute of Technology, representing academia.

The Technology Accelerator created by IMSI helps in the formation of partnerships between emerging technology companies and established businesses. The accelerator links companies having materials-based technologies to those possessing the necessary assets and know-how to facilitate commercialization. The accelerator also provides such services as research guidance, grant training, and strategic marketing. As a result, technology entrepreneurs receive a straighter, faster, more efficient and economical pathway to develop their businesses - speeding their time to market.

"Many business owners spend years gaining the knowledge and resources the IMSI Technology Accelerator can provide in a few months," says Brad Kruchten, a founding IMSI board member; president of Kodak's Film, Photofinishing and Entertainment Group; and senior vice president, Eastman Kodak Company.

"The Institute helps nourish concepts beyond the lab from prototyping and proof of concept into commercialization, thereby substantially reducing the time and expense it takes to become self-sustaining, create jobs in the innovation economy, and turn a profit," notes Michael Summers, managing partner for the U.S. and Asia, CG Innovation Partners. He further explains, "We are positioned to help start-ups speed through that critical period between proof of concept, mass production, and significant sales - the so-called `Valley of Death' - where so many great ideas have been starved into extinction by lack of capital, pilot, and scale-up infrastructure."

Selected Companies
IMSI has already selected three companies to participate in its Technology Accelerator:

  • Cerion Energy, Inc. has begun production of a diesel fuel catalyst that its research shows cuts consumption, reduces costs, and lowers emissions in the multi-billion-dollar diesel fuel business;

  • New Jersey-based Natcore Technology, Inc., is accelerating the development of thin-film solar cells and tandem solar cells using its proprietary liquid phase deposition (LPD) technology;

  • Pittsburgh, Pa.-based Plextronics, Inc., is supplementing its in-house R&D efforts on organic photovoltaics (OPV) energy harvesting, working on ink development for roll-to-roll processing within the IMSI Accelerator.

Kruchten says two of these companies are occupying R&D and manufacturing space at Eastman Business Park, a 1,200-acre technology and industrial complex located in Rochester, N.Y. He says IMSI expects to welcome another four to six companies into the program over the next 6-12 months.

"The IMSI Accelerator model focuses on finding ways to form innovation ecosystems to stimulate cooperative ventures," says IMSI member Kelly Carnes, president and CEO of TechVision21. "It creates links between disconnected parties, and facilitates collaboration between middle-stage companies and established businesses - all with the purpose of sharing innovative ideas within the materials science space during pre-commercialization phases."
How are the academic institutions specifically getting involved at the Technology Accelerator?
It is very common for a company to be formed from technology spun out of an academic institution. More
- Michael Alt, Director, Eastman Business Park
Will the government's overhaul of the patent system have any bearing on the commercialization of products coming out of the accelerator?
Being able to rapidly design and redesign your product will be an edge in the new patent system. More
- Michael Alt, Director, Eastman Business Park

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