Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

Program Helps Bridge Gap between Science, Business

Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

Program Helps Bridge Gap between Science, Business

Article excerpt

TUSCALOOSA | Scientists often speak a different language, one usually only understood by other scientists. This becomes a challenge when they are attempting to explain their research or sell their technology to the general public.

"If you can't sell it to someone, they're not going to buy it," said 31-year-old Franchessa Sayler, who is completing her doctorate in chemistry from the University of Alabama. "Most venture capitalists, the people that provide the money, have business degrees, not scientific backgrounds. Scientists need to know how to talk to various people about their technology. That's really important in getting products to the marketplace."

Sayler did not know the first thing about starting or running a business a year ago. Thanks to a $50,000 Innovation Corps Program grant from the National Science Foundation, she learned. Now, she is majority owner and managing member of ThruPore Technologies LLC, which produces catalysts.

The Innovation Corps Program, or I-Corps, was created to help guide scientific discoveries into the development of technologies, products and processes that benefit society.

"The NSF has a large budget with a mission to fund fundamental science. The idea is if you fund great people to do great science, then that will flow through and business opportunities will follow," said Martin Bakker, associate professor of chemistry.

The problem was very few patents were actually being developed from those research dollars, he added.

"There is often a disconnect between the world of scientists and engineers in a research sense versus technology that impacts people's lives," Bakker said. "This program was designed to help scientists and engineers learn how to quickly determine if their patent has commercial potential and the best way to move forward. The students understand the science, but they don't understand the business side of it."

Bakker and Sayler applied for a grant early last year and was one of 24 teams accepted. …

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