Fighting Brain Drain - Part 2

By: Ryan Famuliner Email
By: Ryan Famuliner Email

Many in our area have high hopes for Innovation Park, Ignition Park, and the Notre Dame Nanotechnology Center.

But the process between an idea and a product that can bring jobs to our area can be a long one.

After years of initial research, trying to then sell a great idea, and create a product, can be a very complicated process.

At Notre Dame, the dean of the school of science says our future leaders will have to learn how to navigate that process to foster success here and across the country.

The students in Greg Crawford's Scientific Entrepreneurship class at Notre Dame aren't used to public speaking.

“Sometimes as scientists we get long winded and will talk quite a bit and an elevator pitch you don't have that opportunity. The opportunity is to do it very quick very concise,” said Greg Crawford, Dean of the College of Science at Notre Dame, who also teaches classes.

The undergraduates put together an ‘elevator pitch’ about 30 seconds long. The idea is to try to sell their product to an investor they might run into, when they wouldn't have much time to pitch their plans.

Their pitches are based on real ideas, created in labs on Notre Dame's campus

“Basically almost every university around the country has a backlog of research and innovation that we have created in the labs... The stuff is being done in the labs, and it sits on the shelf,” said Michael Dean, a student in Crawford’s class.

“You work with these things in labs these new technologies and you might have wondered how would that translate. These are cool, but how could you possibly bring this into the real world?” said Kate Lambert, also a student in Crawford’s class.

The reality is the process to commercialization is anything but brief.

Dr. Prashant Kamat has been working on his solar cell technology for about 5 years. It is one of the projects a group in Crawford’s class chose to pitch.

“What we are trying to do is a game changer, that will make these kinds of cells cheap and economically viable; so a common man can go to a home depot and buy a solar paint,” Dr. Kamat said.

Or maybe a solar window, that would gather energy like a solar panel, but still function as a translucent window.

“These are all in the works and still a lot needs to be done between what we do in the lab, and how we bring this into a product. This is what we do, maybe a drop in the bucket, so everybody (can then) get together in developing this,” Dr. Kamat said.

That's where Innovation Park, slated to open later this year, could come in.

“Innovation Park is a breeding ground where a small company can come to us and say; OK, lets see if we can make a product and then evaluate how much it costs,” Kamat said.

Dr. Kamat says their product would still be a few years away from becoming reality. Meantime, it may actually be a quicker turn-around than other projects.

“The nature of the idea is going to determine how long it takes to bring something out. If it's something in the drug field, that typically takes longer,” said Innovation Park President and CEO David Brenner.

Because even after years of development, there are years of health trials to get FDA approval.

So for drug researchers like Dr. Mark Suckow, whose project was also presented in Crawford’s class, that timeline is even longer.

“From the very beginning concept to where it might actually be in the clinic one can envision that it can be 10 to 15 years,” Dr. Suckow said.

The subsequent job creation in our area is further down the line.

So there's little time to waste to get these ideas out.

“This seems like the best way to integrate all these ideas into a community where jobs aren't necessarily present right now. If we can take these ideas the university has backed up we could create jobs,” said Szymon Ryzner, another student in Crawford’s class.

In part three tomorrow, we'll show you what happened when the students took their real-life products in front of real-life investors.

We'll also hear the investors' thoughts on what lies ahead for our area.

Meantime, if you’d like to see more of the research students presented in Crawford’s class, which represents some of the most advanced research at the Notre Dame, click on the link above.

It is a synopsis of all of the student’s elevator pitches. These are some of the projects that have hopes of collaborating at Innovation Park.

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