Venture Grant finalists seeking help

Faculty and students can help commercialize inventions

Top: Timothy Hagen and Lichuan Liu Bottom: Federico Sciammarella and Tao Xu

Top: Timothy Hagen and Lichuan Liu
Bottom: Federico Sciammarella and Tao Xu

NIU’s second annual Venture Grant competition will provide four faculty members with the opportunity to vie for $20,000 in cash to help move their ideas from concept to finished product.

NIU students, faculty, staff and friends of the university can get involved by lending their talents to help develop and market the competing projects.

The process will get under way at 3:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 24, in the Thurgood Marshall gallery of Swen Parson Hall.

Finalists for the grants, all of whom have been selected by the NIU Foundation Grants Committee and the Northern Illinois Research Foundation, will compete for the services of NIU students, faculty and community members with expertise in communications, business and law.

Interested volunteers can join teams that spend three months crafting business plans and product pitches that they hope will net their projects a grant of up to $20,000.

Once teams are formed, they will be be aligned with mentors and coaches to guide them. They will make practice pitches in early April before a panel of experts who will critique their efforts, and then face the NIU Foundation Grants Committee later that month.

One or more projects will be selected to divide the $40,000 total available in funding. The winning team(s) will have one year to spend the money and move the project closer to fruition.

NIU students from every college, and business professionals from across the region who might have an interest in mentoring teams, have been invited to attend the Jan. 24 kick-off event.

This is the second year for the revamped Venture Grant program. The new program better aligns with NIU’s commitment to faculty research, technology commercialization and a commitment to experiential learning. The new format was devised by College of Law interns working under the Division of Research and Graduate Studies in collaboration with the NIU Foundation and Northern Illinois Research Foundation.

NIU Foundation logoThe four competing faculty and their projects are:

  • Timothy Hagen of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry would use the grant to further the development of synthetic compounds that could be used in the battle against malaria, tuberculosis and other infectious diseases.
  • Lichuan Liu of the Department of Electrical Engineering would use the grant to assist in the commercialization of a wireless communication noise control system for infant incubators. The device will reduce external noise in the incubator (caused by life-sustaining equipment) and allow for two-way communication between infant and parent. Liu received one of the 2013 Venture Grants.
  • Federico Sciammarella of the Department of Mechanical Engineering hopes to use the grant to pursue partners in industry to adopt a computer-controlled laser technology process that he and colleagues developed to improve the machining of ceramic parts used in energy, transportation and metal-forming applications. Sciammarella also received one of the 2013 Venture Grants.
  • Tao Xu of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry would use the grant to further his work in the area of electrochroism. His invention would lead to improved performance and longer life spans for the screens used in smartphones, Ereaders and other applications.

For more information, contact Karinne Bredberg at (815) 753-1125 or kbredberg@niu.edu or Kathy Blair at (815) 753-9506 or krobertsblair@niu.edu.

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