USTAR Grants Grow Innovation Throughout Utah
While many associate the Utah Science Technology and Research initiative with recently dedicated buildings on university campuses and world-class researchers, USTAR also has reach throughout the state with its Go-To-Market grant program. The program is independently administered on a regional basis through USTAR’s Southern, Central, and Northern technology outreach teams. The grants focus on bringing innovative new technologies to market in partnership with Utah’s public universities and colleges.
The teams are located at Utah Valley University (UVU), Weber State University (WSU), and Dixie State College (DSC) with a satellite office at Southern Utah University (SUU). Before being selected for the GTM grant, a company must complete USTAR’s “Nail It Then Scale It” training program held in each of these regions. After successful completion of the training program, companies are then eligible to apply for a GTM grant.
A select group of innovative startups from across the state have recently won Phase I GTM grants.
The winners will use the funds for product development and to aid the completion of customer validations of their startup company before initiating equity fundraising or sales efforts.
The USTAR South team has awarded three phase I grants. Referal.IM, InfoSiftr and Progress PI each were awarded a $5,000 grant to help develop their products. Each company presented a 15-minute presentation to a professional and peer panel. Following the pitch, voting took place to decide which companies would receive the grants.
“Southern Utah has a unique market of companies. Each one has a specific niche in their industry group, and have found a technology solution within that industry to solve problems,” said Jill Elliss, USTAR Southern Utah technology outreach director.
Infosiftr offers a novel way to sift information. The service allows customers to filter, select and receive only specified information through a push-network. The second company, Referral.IM, transfers physician or medical referrals immediately and effectively from one provider to another while keeping the patient involved in the process. Lastly, Progress PI developed a mobile application that allows home builders and buyers to communicate more productively and effectively.
“We plan on using the funds to help improve our Filter Engine’s performance and lower our cost of operations,” Justin Steele, the General Manager of InfoSiftr said. “We also plan on conducting more focus group research to help refine InfoSiftr’s solution. We want to get InfoSiftr out of private beta and launch the service sometime in late spring of 2013.”
The Central Utah office located at UVU has awarded five phase I GTM grants of $5,000. The awards went to Likester, Vygent, TranquilMed, ForeUp, and Continuum iCare.
Each of these companies has developed innovative products useful to the public such as Likester, which has developed a mobile application to allow users to interact with social media and write instant reviews.
ForeUp has developed a golf management software system that can be used to manage tee times and integrate pro shop sales in one convenient application. Vygent targets the food production industry by using nanotechnology to increase profitability through targeting natural animal health and disease prevention.
The last two winning companies focus on the medical industry. TranquilMed is a device designed to calm Restless Leg Syndrome with the use of LED lights. Lastly, Continuum iCare is a company that created a medical software application to effectively communicate electronic medical records and streamline electronic treatment plan management.
Ryan Angus, associate director of USTAR’s Central Region technology outreach office, has been awarding these companies Phase I grant money since August, when the GTM grant program became effective. “UVU has held the ‘Nail It Then Scale It’ training program monthly allowing companies to apply for GTM grants each month and awarding promising innovative companies Phase I of the GTM grant,” Angus said.
Jeff Jackson, associate director of USTAR’s Northern Region, has taken a different approach at WSU. “The USTAR North office at Weber State will disperse our GTM grants each fall semester in a single competition for any startup creating jobs in Weber or Davis County” he said.
With this format, USTAR North has announced six startup companies who were awarded $15,000 phase I grants. These included Protein Fusion, Chi Tester, Double XL Ads, Fenex, Telio, and Learn Stack.
Like the Southern and Central region awardees, the USTAR North winners represent a diverse crop of innovative ideas. Protein Fusion offers a solution to researchers using eGFP (enhanced green fluorescent protein) and provides a library of linkers between proteins that are designed to minimally alter function and migration for optimized research.
Two of the winning companies are focusing on the education sector. Chi Tester has developed software to improve the testing workflow and reporting metrics for schools and universities. It gives teachers real-time feedback on student performance to ensure security and streamlines workflows. Secondly, Learn Stack has created a toolkit for developers which aids in developing applications for educators. It combines user management, directed learning, and analytics in an easily accessible database.
Double XL Ads is working on growing Utah’s digital media sector with the company’s mobile ad platforms for niche industries like gardening and home improvement. The last two awardees have developed solutions for the automotive industry. Fenex produces off-road drivetrains that have proven to be stronger, more durable and lighter than their competition, and Telio, which offers an easily installed, long- term oil filtration system for trucking and non-commercial drivers.
Each one of these companies now will have the opportunity to win a $10,000-$15,000 phase II GTM grant upon their ability to generate $5,000 in sales revenue within the next 12 months.