The word innovation has been a common theme at Wichita State University for months, with the university’s Innovation Campus in development, and now, with the Innovation Accelerator Shock Tank competition.
The contest, which began in October with 19 companies, ended Friday with seven companies receiving between $10,000 and $20,000. Funding for all the companies, which was provided by the Kansas Department of Commerce, totaled $109,600.
WSU Ventures – the school’s platform created to develop industry partnerships and protect intellectual property – hosted the contest and announced the winners.
Wichita-based Aviation Business International, which is one of the first tenants for WSU’s Innovation Campus, received $20,000 in funding for its peelable maskant system. The system, used in the aerospace manufacturing industry, replaces a technology that has been used for more than 25 years.
Danielle Hayes, innovation platform manager of ABI, said the company plans to use some of the money to pay a student intern.
“We’re really excited to spend the money,” she said. “There’s a lot of different areas where we could use some interns, and they’d get great experience.”
Hayes said interns will, at first, be hired to do market research and commercialization. But later, she said there could be opportunities in the lab for students studying fields like chemistry.
Another company, Hesston-based NMotion UAS, received $10,000 for its unmanned aircraft systems for public safety agencies project. The project works with unmanned aircraft for use in agencies such as fire departments, law enforcement offices, SWAT teams and hazardous material management.
The company enhances unmanned aircraft, or drones, to assist in emergency situations such as a fire by providing aerial surveillance of the emergency – even using thermal vision.
“For fires, or for bodies in search and rescue, you’ve got another light spectrum to see what’s going on,” said John Martens, founder and CEO of NMotion UAS.
Companies were evaluated based on innovation, technical merit, stage of development, commercialization timeline, job growth forecast, collaboration with WSU, student involvement and the investments they already had received.
Overall, the selected companies expect to add 90-plus jobs to the Kansas economy by 2018, according to a news release.
WSU President John Bardo, speaking about the importance of innovation in Kansas, said he hopes the university can provide a “portal” to help good ideas become a reality.
“That’s what’s going to generate wealth,” he said. “… And that’s what’s going to make our community viable so that our children and our grandchildren can experience the same quality, or even better quality of life, that we did.
“That’s what we’re about as a university.”
Other companies that received funding
▪ Advanced Guard Conservation – $20,000 for its water conservation solutions in manufacturing. It does this through a patent-pending “reactor” and chemical formula.
▪ iNOv8v Health Technologies – $20,000 for its application used to control cardiovascular fitness equipment.
▪ Leachrod – $15,000 for its “blade removal tool,” which allows farmers to replace tractor blades more safely and efficiently.
▪ GoodFlight LLC – $14,600 for its application that tracks and records flights for flight instructors or schools.
▪ WSU Software Usability Lab – $10,000 for its “usability evaluation toolkit,” which helps with research on wearable technology, like Google Glass.