When the U.S. Chamber of Commerce released its "Enterprising States Report" in June, it ranked Utah third overall for innovation and entrepreneurship. Two reports out of Utah State University and the University of Utah this week emphasize just how innovative Utah entrepreneurs and researchers can be.
A Milestone for Electric Vehicles
The Energy Dynamics Laboratory at Utah State University (USU) recently operated what it calls the first high-power, high-efficiency wireless power transfer system capable of transferring enough energy to quickly charge an electric vehicle. In a nutshell, the demonstration validates that electric vehicles can efficiently be charged with wireless technology.
"In the not-so-distant future, we will see vehicles go from being charged by plugging into the electric grid, to wirelessly charging in garages, shopping centers and dedicated refueling stations, to mass transit vehicles that are charged as they are in motion and eventually wireless electric roadways where cars will travel at 75 miles per hour while being charged," says Jeff Muhs, director of the Energy Dynamics Laboratory (EDL). "Future versions of the system architecture developed at EDL have the unique potential to be embedded under pavement and transfer power wirelessly to vehicles at speeds of 75 mph or more and provide enough power to completely eliminate the range anxiety of electric vehicles. Wireless power transfer represents the disruptive technology that will eventually enable the safe and efficient electrification of highways, end our dependence on foreign oil, and enable a new era of enhanced mobility."
EDL's wireless power transfer technology will be discussed with industry leaders from around the world next February in Park City as part of the Conference on Electric Roads & Vehicles (CERV). The EDL at USU was founded in 2009. It develops and deploys transformational energy systems, providing considerable improvements to U.S. energy security in the following five areas: Intuitive and Solar Buildings, Vehicle and Roadway Electrification, Environmental and Wind Measurements, Next Generation Fossil Energy, and Algae Energy Systems. EDL focuses on prototyping; demonstrating, deploying and commercializing innovative technologies for renewable and advanced energy systems that will help solve national and international environmental issues. EDL provides customers and partners with innovative, high‐value solutions and services that can rapidly be commercialized through industry friendly practices and efficient technology transfer.
The Deseret News published an interesting story that further explores the EDL's technology.
Smart Feeding Tubes
Thousands of people die annually from the mistaken placement of feeding tubes in patients' lungs. Now, an innovation developed at the University of Utah may help prevent those deaths. Veritract Inc., a startup company spawned by research at the University of Utah, hopes to make the placement of feeding tubes much safer and faster.
Veritract is developing a "Smart Feeding Tube" equipped with a live camera and steering mechanism that enables doctors to place feeding tubes into the stomach with much more accuracy than current technology allows. The company has made substantial progress toward developing a commercial product for doctor and patient use, with $820,000 already secured in an early round of funding.
Dr. John Fang, the founder of Veritract and the clinical director of the University of Utah Division of Gastroenterology, developed the feeding tube technology with students in the BioDesign program at the university. "Misplacement of a feeding tube in a patient's lung is something that is avoidable, and it is our goal to get a product to market that will improve patient care," says Fang.
Company founders and University of Utah officials are hopeful that Veritract will be able to offer its device to hospitals in the near future. They say the company is considered one of the most promising startups that have come out of the university in recent years.
"Veritract is a great example of the commercialization program we have developed at the university, taking promising ideas and providing support and encouragement to the inventor," says Jack Brittain, University of Utah vice president for technology venture development.
The company has received grants from the Utah Science Technology and Research Initiative (USTAR), the Utah State Centers of Excellence and the University of Utah Research Foundation. Its products have received a number of accolades, including the 2009 Invented in Utah Award, as well as runner-up in the 2009 Utah Entrepreneur Challenge and finishing as a finalist in the 2011 Utah Innovation Awards.
Additionally, students from the David Eccles School of Business's Lassonde New Venture Development Center worked with Fang to analyze the market for the new feeding tube and draft a business plan to help launch the company.
"The Lassonde Center students and the University's Technology Venture Development Office have played a key role in helping us go from idea to company," Fang notes. "The entire ecosystem in the state that includes USTAR, the Governor's Office of Economic Development (GOED), the Angel and Seed funds have been critical to our success. This is a very difficult environment to start a company, even with a promising technology such as ours. Without all the support we would not be where we are today."
EDCUtah President & CEO Jeff Edwards says innovation-based economic development, such as what is taking place through USTAR at Utah's research universities, is delivering real job creation for the state. In fact, according to USTAR estimates, the USTAR initiative has created more than 2,434 jobs so far and is ahead of projections.