Scientists are natural problem solvers, full of innovative ideas. But moving those ideas from the laboratory to the marketplace can be difficult, even for those with an entrepreneurial bent.
In part, that’s because federal research dollars typically don’t support the proof-of-concept studies needed to demonstrate the feasibility of a promising new technology or diagnostic test. And while most scientists feel right at home in the laboratory, they often struggle to develop a successful pitch or execute a business plan.
To fill the gap, Washington University’s Bear Cub program provides university scientists with funding to help commercialize their discoveries. Beginning this year, scientists who are funded through the program also have access to business mentors and other hands-on assistance to develop their technologies.
“We want our faculty and students to have every opportunity to commercialize their technologies,” says Bradley Castanho, PhD, director of the university’s Office of Technology Management. “Part of that means creating an atmosphere where scientists are supported and encouraged in their efforts to become entrepreneurs, while also helping to make funding available so they can move their discoveries beyond the lab.”
The university recently announced a new round of Bear Cub funding, with $204,000 going to five scientists: Jung-Tsung Shen, PhD, assistant professor of electrical and systems engineering, has developed a photonic switch that is orders of magnitude faster, smaller and more energy efficient than other switches typically used to support the information superhighway. In the future, demands for broadband signal transmission and processing will require ultra-fast and extremely low-energy optical switching and modulation rates that aren’t possible with current approaches.
The switch designed by Shen and his colleagues uses artificially engineered materials, called metamaterials, that exhibit exceptional optical properties not easily observed in nature. In addition to telecommunications, the switch also could be used in high-resolution medical imaging and in semiconductor manufacturing. Bear Cub funding will allow Shen to further develop and test the switch.
Read more in the WUSTL Newsroom.
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