Program matches researchers, industry to develop new technologies

Technology Transfer Office debuts partnering clinics to guide University and DRI technology development and commercialization

1/19/2012 - By: Mike Wolterbeek
solar pond A distillation system patented by the University of Nevada, Reno is powered by this salt-gradient solar pond that traps solar heat at the bottom of the pond where the brine can reach and sustain temperatures greater than 195 degrees. The collected thermal energy powers the distillation system designed to increase water clarity and quality in lakes. Francisco Suarez, a student in the graduate program of hydrological sciences at the University of Nevada, Reno, shows off the pond that also can be used directly for heating or for other low-temperature thermal applications. The membrane distillation system was developed by Amy Childress, chair of the Civil Engineering Department and a participant in the inaugural Industry/Faculty Partnering Clinic. Photo by Mike Wolterbeek, University of Nevada, Reno.

With its new Industry/Faculty Partnering Clinic, the Technology Transfer Office for the University of Nevada, Reno and DRI is engaging the community in the work of scientists to help develop new technologies for Nevada.

The new clinic is one of three programs the TTO has instituted to engage the community in an effort to enhance technology transfer, economic development, and the relationship between the institutions and the local business community. Tech transfer is the practice of transferring scientific findings from one organization to another for further development so that new products or processes in such areas, for example, as medicine, educational tools, electronic devices or renewable energy can become available to the public.

"We'll get business involved early in all phases of technology development and marketing," Ryan Heck, director of the TTO, said. "These programs will lay the foundation for new technologies that have real potential for success in the marketplace and increase our ability to find the right partner to get the technologies to market."

In the next few weeks, teams that include community mentors, faculty members and science and business students, will begin reaching out to companies who have products in areas of faculty technical expertise. The goal is for faculty to learn about company technology needs and industry trends so that faculty can develop research proposals that will lead to new products.

"While we have matched mentors and researchers for the four technologies of focus for this first session, we are looking for more for future clinics, as well as people to help with our other community engagement programs," Heck said. "It's exciting to see the enthusiasm local industry experts have to participate with us. We've been fortunate to gather significant support from members of the Northern Nevada SCORE program - a service association of retired executives - and other members of the business community."

The four technologies for the first session of the partnering clinic are:

  • Water purification and energy production systems;
  • Computer algorithms to aid in drug discovery;
  • Plants genetically engineered to produce gasoline and enzymes to produce insect pheromones and flavorants/fragrances;
  • Renewable energy production, such as waste-water sludge conversion and utilization, biomass pre-treatment and conversion using hydrothermal and torrefaction methods, and life-cycle analysis of hydrothermal geothermal energy extraction.

The other two community programs that Heck has instituted are "Industry on Campus," which will bring faculty and industry representatives together to share technology interests and help identify potential faculty-industry partnerships; and "Community Support Network," a virtual panel of community business experts who review technology summary briefs and provide feedback on the value proposition of the technology and/or suggest relationship links in the local community.

"The partnering clinic is an 'inside out' approach to building relationships while the 'Industry on Campus' program is an 'outside in' approach that may be better suited to building relationships locally," he said.

Members of the business community are invited to become mentors, express interest for their company in the "Industry on Campus" program, or join the Community Support Network by filling out a brief online contact form at the TTO Website.

The University and DRI engage mostly in primary research, and partner with business and industry to develop the new technologies to the commercialization stage.

The University of Nevada, Reno's instructional and research faculty provide a wide variety of world class expertise with global impact in areas such as environmental research and conservation, nanotechnology, molecular bioscience and biotechnology, health science, computer science, agricultural science, engineering, seismic engineering, mining engineering, high energy density, chemistry and physics.

DRIs research addresses environmental issues on a global scale and conducts studies on every continent in the world. DRI scientists and engineers generate leading-edge technologies for applications such as measuring windblown dust emissions and ultra-fine particles, quantifying light scattering from large particles in the atmosphere, modeling wind flow over complex terrain, and improved detection of icing conditions on airplane wings.

To learn more about these valuable Community Engagement Programs, the Tech Transfer Office, or to sign up for the Technology Transfer Office newsletter, visit the UNR-DRI TTO Office website.


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