Fourteen finalists pitched their innovations at the first annual Lab Venture Challenge (LVC), a funding competition held by the Technology Transfer Office (TTO) to help commercially-promising technologies accelerate into impactful business ventures. External judges awarded a total of seven grants – up to $125,000 each—for the top physical science, engineering and bioscience innovations demonstrating high commercial potential, a clear path to a compelling market and strong scientific support.
The finalists delivered 10-minute pitches to a panel of business leaders, entrepreneurs, investors and intellectual property experts at the LVC showcase finals on Nov. 15. Numerous departments across the CU Boulder campus were represented, ranging from mechanical engineering to biochemistry.
Aside from the winners listed in the call out box, finalists included:
- Physical Sciences:
- Jeffrey Beyle and Qin Lv, Computer Science—Affordable Digital Tools for Small and Medium Manufacturers
- Donald David, Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES)— Quantum Plating Solutions
- Aaron Palumbo, Chemical and Biological Engineering—Cleaner, Cheaper Magnesium Production
- Douglas Chapnick, Biochemistry—Predicting Clinical Success and Failure of Therapeutic Drugs
- Xuedong Liu, Chemistry and Biochemistry—Programmable Designer Therapeutics
- Tin Tin Su, Molecular, Cellular & Developmental Biology—A High Throughput Screen for Identifying Cancer Therapies
- Wei Tan, Mechanical Engineering—Designing Personalized Vascular Devices
Among the winners was Timothy Morrissey, PhD candidate in mechanical engineering and founder of Artimus Robotics, whose team is working to develop “soft robotic” devices that imitate the expansion and contraction of natural muscles. These devices are lower in cost and less bulky than similar robotic components that exist in the market currently.
“Winning the LVC truly validated that our technology has real market potential and, more importantly, that we have a path to bring this innovation to market,” says Morrissey. “Additionally, winning the Physical Science Audience Choice Award really highlights that people see our technology as having real-world impacts on their lives in the immediate future.”
To prepare for the showcase, finalists were encouraged to participate in TTO’s Commercialization Academy. CU Boulder Entrepreneurs in Residence (EIRs), commercialization mentors and TTO staff provided critical feedback so finalists could refine their presentations and practice engaging different business audiences in order to attract funding.
“TTO's great network of support has helped us put together the rest of the pieces such as customer development, a go-to-market strategy and understanding how we really provide value to our customers,” says Morrissey.
Mechanical Engineering Associate Professor and TissueForm founder Corey Neu first participated in LVC in 2017. After attending several TTO workshops and receiving advice from business mentors, he returned to LVC 2018 with a more refined presentation and commercialization plan. “Working through this competition helped us to better define our customer and market,” says Neu. His innovation – next-generation dermal fillers – ended up taking home one of the top grant prizes in the Bioscience category.
“Corey [Neu] is a fantastic example of a researcher who leveraged the resources available on campus,” says Brynmor Rees, assistant vice chancellor for Research & Innovation and director of the TTO.
All of the awardees will also enter the Research-to-Market (R2M) program, which teaches scientific and engineering teams the process of customer discovery. In addition, toward the end of the funding period, awardees will present their progress from the LVC and collaborate with each other, EIRs, mentors and TTO staff to set the commercialization path forward.
“Our team has excellent resources that can directly result in traction for funding and other milestones toward commercialization,” says Rees. “I am really looking forward to the high-value ventures that will come from the alchemy between great CU Boulder innovation and our growing suite of resources.”
LVC funding comes from the Colorado Office of Economic Development & International Trade’s (COEDIT) AIA program, the TTO and the Chancellor’s Innovation Fund.