Accelerating innovation: 7 research teams receive commercialization grants

Published: May 11, 2017 By

Tactile sensors mounted on a commercial gripper (Nikolaus Correll) Seven CU Boulder research teams have been selected to receive grants for the development of commercially-promising technologies. A total of 21 applications were reviewed by a panel of external judges made up of entrepreneurs, investors, business executives and intellectual property attorneys from around the country.

Six of the seven awards are funded by the Advanced Industries Accelerator (AIA) program, administered by the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade with the support of Colorado Advanced Industry trade associations and the state’s Economic Development Commission. AIA program funds are matched at a 25 percent rate by the CU Boulder Technology Transfer Office (TTO), with internal funding provided by Chancellor Philip DiStefano’s office, derived from TTO licensing revenues. The remaining award is fully funded by the university.

The AIA program is designed to identify technologies from research institutions and connect them to the private sector, where they can be developed into commercial products.

The seven awardees are:

Next-generation autonomous manipulation for collaborative robotics (Nikolaus Correll, Computer Science): The field of mobile robots is taking off. Robots are increasingly used in warehouses, factories, hotels and homes, where they enable telepresence, deliver goods, or clean, for example. Robotic Materials Inc. has licensed the key technology that will allow equipping robots with the sense of touch, dramatically increasing the value they can create for users. Tactile sensors mounted on a commercial gripper (Nikolaus Correll) CU

Development of a next-generation, highly thermostable human papillomavirus vaccine (Robert Garcea, Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology; Ted Randolph, Chemical and Biological Engineering): The goal of this proposal is to combine new technologies to formulate vaccines—applied specifically here to new HPV vaccines—that are both potent and stable without refrigeration for extended periods of time. This will circumvent impediments to current vaccine delivery by eliminating the need for a “cold chain” (appropriate refrigeration) that is frequently absent in less developed areas of the world, where vaccine needs are great.

Enhancement of thermal atomic layer etching for anisotropic etching (Steven George, Chemistry): Anisotropic etching is critical for the fabrication of three-dimensional nanostructures, such as those used in advanced semiconductor devices. George’s team will build on its discovery of new thermal reactions for atomic layer etching (ALE)—the controlled removal of material at the atomic level. This new project will develop methods to obtain anisotropic etching, where material is removed with a preferred directionality.  

Miniature laser for multiphoton microscopy (Juliet Gopinath, Electrical Engineering): The goal of this project is to develop a miniature diode laser system that can eventually be used for the study and treatment of neurological disease, photodynamic therapy and endoscopy. The technology will produce short pulse sources in the near-infrared range, enabling deep penetration in tissue.


Carbonate products analyzed by XRD crystal phase analysis (Jason Ren)

Carbonate products analyzed by XRD crystal phase analysis (Jason Ren)


Direct energy and resource recovery from carbon dioxide and wastewater (Jason Ren, Civil Engineering): The Ren lab will work with HySummit—a company dedicated to producing carbon-negative water, hydrogen and high-value chemicals—to develop scalable systems to convert beverage wastewater and CO2 into valuable chemicals, such as carbonate and hydrogen.

Preclinical assessment of drug for colorectal cancer (Tin Tin Su, Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology): Tin Tin Su’s team is studying a first-in-class drug candidate that works by depriving cancer cells of proteins they need to survive and grow. This grant will enable the team to obtain proof-of-concept data in preclinical models of colorectal cancer, where therapy options remain limited.      

Continuous magnesium metal production in a novel reactor (Aaron Palumbo and Al Weimer, Chemical and Biological Engineering): Magnesium metal is the lightest structural metal used to make electronic devices ultra-portable and vehicles more fuel efficient. However, current production methods are extremely energy intensive. Palumbo and Weimer’s project will focus on the construction of a continuous, high-temperature extraction system that can reduce processing energy consumption by 60 percent, translating into a cost-reduction of at least 20 percent.

Five of the seven winners have already formed startup companies around their technologies: Robotic Materials (Correll); VitriVax (Garcea, Randolph); HySummit (Ren); SuviCa (Su); and Big Blue (Weimer, Palumbo).