Published: May 24, 2022

$1.75 million was awarded to seven Venture Partners at CU Boulder startups in Early Stage Capital and Retention Grants last week from the Global Business Development division of the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT) Advanced Industries Accelerator Grant Program. These grants, valued at $250,000 each, are intended to drive innovation, accelerate commercialization, encourage public-private partnerships and increase access to early-stage capital across the state.

“Innovations in advanced industries have enormous potential to change the world we live in, yet the market typically underinvests in early-stage technologies,” said Rama Haris, advanced industries senior manager at OEDIT. “With these grant programs, we aim to fill a funding gap left by the market and foster the types of partnerships that will help Colorado’s Advanced Industries continue to lead their fields.” 

Each winning company is commercializing a foundational technology developed at the university and licensed by Venture Partners. These newly founded companies have leveraged a variety of campus resources to help advance their innovations from the research lab into high potential businesses. Six out of the seven awardees completed National Science Foundation (NSF) I-Corps training, a nationally recognized program to help researchers find a product-market fit for their technologies. CU Boulder is currently a leader of the I-Corps Hub: West Region. The same number also won proof of concept grants in the 2021 Lab Venture Challenge, which provides up to $125,000 awards for CU Boulder researchers to reach early technical and business milestones for their innovations.

“It is incredibly encouraging to see CU Boulder’s innovators utilize Venture Partners’ commercialization resources, and then continue on to success in highly competitive funding programs like the AI grants,” said Bryn Rees, associate vice chancellor for Research and Innovation and managing director of Venture Partners. “The startup ecosystem at CU Boulder is thriving.”

Impacting deep-tech through new innovations

One award winner includes Vitro3D, headed by CEO Camila Uzcategui, PhD. This budding startup won $250,000 to boost their new, cost-effective method of 3D printing. Vitro3D aims to use volumetric 3D printing to print dental retainers, aligners and mouthguards in a provider’s office—and then move on to mimic materials inside the human body to help with life-saving medical procedures. On top of this major funding boost, Vitro3D was awarded $33,500 as the second-place winner at CU Boulder’s premier venture competition New Venture Challenge.

Additional OEDIT winner, LumenAstra, is commercializing a CU Boulder patent for a small, wearable sensor measuring internal body temperature several centimeters below the skin. Applications include direct brain temperature measurement to lessen the risk of mortality during cardiac bypass surgery and identifying heat stress among athletes and military servicemen.

“These funds will allow us to complete our current round of miniaturization for a set of field-portable prototypes for gathering data to tweak our designs and prepare us for our FDA certification next year,” said Jim Pollock, LumenAstra founder and CEO.

Both Vitro3D and LumenAstra recently participated in Venture Partners' inaugural Ascent Accelerator, designed for deep-tech startups to find success in established markets.

“These grants are a powerful engine to not only strengthen Colorado’s economic development across key industries, but by translating breakthrough university research into real-world solutions for health, climate, and other challenges,” said Rees.

CU Boulder Grant Award Winners
  • Aspero Medical Inc. —Improved balloon endoscopy technology, minimizing procedure time and enabling more complete procedures on the first attempt.
  • Blue Cubed Electronics —Optical and radio frequency communication terminals for the growing small satellite market.
  • LumenAstra —A wearable, non-invasive core body temperature sensor with more than a dozen clinical, consumer, military and athletic applications.
  • RDFlows —A marketplace to connect Colorado startups and corporate businesses with underutilized cost effective, high-end and high-performing research equipment at universities.
  • TYNT Technologies —Inexpensive windows with adjustable tinting that prevent glare while maintaining views and save energy
  • Vesicle Technologies—A new approach for anti-viral drug discovery and development.
  • Vitro3D —3D-printed dental aligners manufactured at the patient point of care.