SHAPING THE INNOVATION FRAMEWORK: Q&A with Executive Director Bill Dean
Last year, ARTF and The Park engaged in a comprehensive strategic planning effort that mapped out a new and aggressive course with an eye toward enabling the extraordinary researchers here at Auburn and among our partners to create bold, next generation solutions for the state and region. As 2021 draws to a close, Bill Dean speaks to the progress he and his team have made executing the plan and to the next steps in The Park's evolution.
Learn more about why Dean describes The Park as, "a Community of Opportunity on the rise..."
Staff Spotlight: Lou Bifano
Director of Entrepreneurship Strategy
Harbert College of Business
Director, New Venture Accelerator
What is the New Venture Accelerator and your affiliation with it?
The New Venture Accelerator is the hub of the “learn by doing” component of Auburn Entrepreneurship. The accelerator provides office space for students who are starting a new business venture while pursuing an academic degree. The accelerator also provides office space to faculty members who are working on commercializing their research. More important than physical space, the accelerator staff includes entrepreneurs-in-residence, and visiting executives who have successfully started, continue to operate, have sold, or taken their businesses public. They provide mentoring, coaching, and workshops to our student and faculty entrepreneurs with the goals of accelerating time to market and success rates. The New Venture Accelerator is jointly managed by the Harbert College of Business and the Auburn Research and Technology Foundation. My role in addition to teaching and running our business idea competitions is to manage day-to-day operations for the accelerator.
Clearly, it takes a unique set of skills to do what you do. Would you describe your own career path, as well as any experiences and interests that serve you well in this role?
The majority of my career prior to joining Auburn has been in the technology industry, and more recently in mergers, acquisitions, and technology licensing. Overall, everyone involved with the New Venture Accelerator brings a diverse set of entrepreneurial backgrounds to the program.
Given your experience prior coming to Auburn and in the time that you’ve been working with students and start-ups, are you seeing any common characteristics among successful entrepreneurs?
The student and faculty entrepreneurs we are working with, and I think entrepreneurs in general, have a high risk tolerance, are innovative and passionate about what they are doing, work long hours, and possess a large measure of “grit” as they work through the many challenges of starting a business.
Do the startup companies in the New Venture Accelerator tend to come from particular disciplines or have you seen examples of startup companies emerging from all corners of campus?
Our student and faculty startups come increasingly from all across the Auburn campus - spanning nursing, forestry, apparel design, liberal arts, business, and engineering . Currently, the largest percentage of startups we are working with come from the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering and the Harbert College of Business.
What’s ahead? What are some projects on the horizon that you are particularly excited about?
We are excited about the external recognition our teams are receiving. To name a few - Alabama LaunchPad, the SEC Business Plan Competition, and the Rice Business Plan Competition, which they won going up against schools such as Stanford and MIT. We are focused on keeping that momentum going. We are also excited about a grant we just received from the Economic Development Agency of the Department of Commerce to test our ability to extend the accelerator’s entrepreneurship programming to the local community with the goal of fostering economic development and job creation here in Lee County. Another strategic priority for us is to find new ways to improve diversity and inclusion in the entrepreneurial community and its funding sources. We have a strategic plan. The challenge now is to continue to execute and find new ways to support and nurture our student and faculty entrepreneurs.
ARTF Board Member, David Thrasher, recognized as one of "21 Alabamians Who Made A Difference in 2021"
As part of their annual series highlighting individuals who have improved quality of life in Alabama, AL.com recently featured Montgomery pulmonologist and ARTF board member, Dr. David Thrasher for his early adoption of monoclonal antibody treatment in fighting COVID-19.
ARTF is pleased to announce that Park Director, Phil Dunlap, is a recent recipient of Auburn University's Spirit of Excellence Award.
The Spirit of Excellence Award recognizes employees who "go beyond the call of duty to improve service, quality, and institutional image, and who exemplify professionalism and dedication to excellence"--in short, a perfect description of Dunlap.
Please join us in congratulating Phil Dunlap on this well-deserved honor.
From left to right: Sasaki's Martin Zogran, Fred Merrill and Dorothy MacAusland along with ARTF Executive Director, Bill Dean
SASAKI: Agents of Change
The Park is evolving and growing. Thoughtful planning ensures that The Park is positioned for continued growth in ways that best serve the university and community. To assist with developing a new master plan for The Park, ARTF has retained Boston-based firm, Sasaki.
World-renowned and with over 68 years in practice, Sasaki is designing the future of place. Recently, CONVERGE had a chance to chat with principal planner, Fred Merrill.
How would you describe Sasaki? A master planning firm? A design firm? All the above?
"So, we are both a planning and design firm working at multiple scales: regional, city, urban district, campus, neighborhood, site, building and interior spaces. We work in partnership with leading organizations across educational, civic, cultural and commercial contexts to help to them more clearly define and resolve complex issues through a highly inclusive, innovative, and interdisciplinary process. Sasaki excels at understanding the evolving nuances faced by our clients within and across sectors and how planning and design can empower their success."
Learn more about Sasaki's initial thoughts for opportunities for growth in The Park and what surprised them most about Auburn.
The Park's Director, Phil Dunlap meets with Sasaki's Dorothy MacAusland
In an effort to advance research ideas that benefit society and the economy, Auburn University recently awarded three faculty research projects $100,000 in LAUNCH funding support.
Established in 2015 by the Auburn University Research and Economic Development Advisory Board, the LAUNCH Fund for Research and Innovation involves a multi-stage competition and related programming designed to bridge the gap between innovative research and the marketplace.
Raymond "Buzz" Powell, research professor and associate director of the National Center of Asphalt Technology (NCAT) and Jason Nelson, test track manager, were awarded $32,320 for “High Friction Road Patch”. The funds will be used to produce, install and test a second generation prototype of a road surface treatment for improving highway safety. The treatment consists of a high friction aggregate blend embedded into a durable adhesive membrane that can be applied to small sections of road such as sharp turns to improve friction and reduce accident rates.
Dave Worley, professor emeritus in chemistry & biochemistry and student Ali Taylor, along with Roy Broughton, professor emeritus in mechanical engineering, were awarded $30,919 for an “Improved Method for Removal of Oxidative Chlorine, Bromine, and Chloramines from Water”. This project uses previously developed n-halamine compounds to remove halogens, such as chlorine, from water, with applications in for drinking water, industrial water treatment and kidney dialysis. The award will be used to purchase equipment and perform experiments to determine the concentration levels that can be achieved, and to compare it to existing products on the market.
McWane Professor ZY Cheng from materials engineering and Professor Tung-Shi Huang of Poultry Science, were awarded $33,912 for “Detection of Bacteria in Liquid with Extremely Low Concentrations”. The funds will be used to produce and test specialized sensors to determine if they can achieve detection limits of food borne pathogens below the 1 cell/mL level--a level not currently achievable. Industry feedback has indicated that this level of sensitivity would make possible a range applications in the food safety industry.
As with any Auburn innovators whose projects are significantly advanced and demonstrated, LAUNCH award recipients will be connected to experts in Auburn's New Venture Accelerator, and to the professional staff of the Office of Innovation Advancement & Commercialization for help in devising pathways to commercialization.
More information about how Auburn supports experts through LAUNCH is available on the LAUNCH website.
Dr. David Worley and his team (above) respond to questions from judges during the finals of the LAUNCH competition in November.
CONVERGE: News and Notes
from around The Park is a publication from Auburn Research Park. CONVERGE aims to connect with members of The Park community and in turn, help them connect with one other and with university expertise.
Our goal is to highlight innovative activity in The Park and on campus, and link you to resources that may be useful to your organization.
Recently, Jim Weyhenmeyer, Auburn University's vice president for research and economic development, and president of the Auburn Research and Technology Foundation spoke to the role collaboration plays in fostering innovation both here in The Park and on campus for a piece published in Alabama Inno. Dr. Weyhenmeyer underscored both the value bringing together talented experts from a range of disciplines, as well as the importance of providing an ecosystem that not allows for, but drives creative collisions between researchers.
Certainly that has been and continues to be our goal here at The Park--recruiting first class minds to first class facilities. As we look ahead to the coming year, we are grateful to be working with professionals from Sasaki to develop a master plan for The Park that best uses our resources to inspire innovation and further build community.
We are also grateful for each of you--those who make up our community and those who follow and support our efforts--and wish you a happy, healthy holiday season and a peaceful and prosperous new year.
Thank you for checking out this issue of CONVERGE. You can stay up to date between issues by following us on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and by keeping an eye out for us in your inbox.
Thank you, again, for your role in making the Park the place where innovation begins,
In November, the New Venture Accelerator welcomed a team from 18:56, the Auburn Alumni Association's online speaker series. Their live broadcast included a "walk and talk" through the accelerator which gave them a chance to feature three of our startup companies: WELLBLOxS, a “gameified” patient education platform; Vulcan Line Tools, a system to measure the health of power lines; and SwiftSku, which provides a point-of-sale system for independent convenience stores. Check out this excellent episode below.