Vermont Center for Emerging Technologies

Chris Landry
Photo by Sally McCay
Business Sense: Emerging Technologies Center Comes of Age
UVM Notebook; Fall 2006; by Jon Reidel
There was no final exam for the graduates of the inaugural class of the Vermont Center for Emerging Technologies. The true test of the University-supported small business development program designed to nurture new high-growth, high-tech firms comes after these grads enter the marketplace.

The ceremonial send-off of Bulldog Entertainment Network, a family-friendly, on-line entertainment business, and ElectroCell Technologies, Inc., a company that treats animal waste to reduce farm odor and the environmental impact of wastewater run-off, marks the successful transition from early-stage businesses to more mature companies ready to compete in the private sector.
“This is a concrete symbol that this program is doing what we’d hoped: churning out businesses and creating jobs,” Sen. Patrick Leahy said at the ceremony. “ElectroCell and Bulldog Entertainment have taken unique technologies and applied them to real-world situations. The demand for VCET is already outgrowing its available space. It has proven its worth in the Vermont economy.”

The University could benefit financially and from the creation of new jobs in Vermont. With thousands of graduates leaving each year, diplomas in hand, ready and eager to enter the workforce, far too often the jobs they’ve sought haven’t been close to home. That could change if companies like the recent graduates, or the three new companies that were welcomed to the VCET are successful.

Opened in June 2005 in Farrell Hall on UVM’s Trinity Campus, VCET has since proven successful at leveraging UVM technology, laboratory facilities, and equipment as well as linking client companies to key faculty, staff, and student interns.

Clients also enjoy the benefits of being connected to an extensive network of private sector mentors and advisors and private investment capital resources. Being located in a modern (even hip) 4,000-square-foot facility with eight offices for client companies, four labs, administrative offices, and conference rooms doesn’t hurt.

Apollo SRI, an early stage company hoping to commercialize a UVM-patented technology based on the research of Christopher Landry, an associate professor of chemistry, uses nano materials for filtering pharmaceutical products to achieve high levels of purity.

“I think we’re a little different than some of the clients at VCET because we’re more research-based,” says Landry. “And we don’t have a finished product yet, so it’s tougher for us to utilize some of VCET’s resources. In other ways, though, we’ve needed VCET more than other clients. I don’t have a business background, for example, so VCET put us in touch with local people with business expertise. They gave us some valuable advice on small business grant writing.” 

Ultimately, Apollo SRI hopes to claim its piece of the $4.3 billion Chiral drug market. This is exactly the kind of scenario that led Senator Patrick Leahy to secure almost $3.5 million in federal funding for VCET. “The Vermont Center for Emerging Technologies and other Vermont incubators will tap the technology potential that we have in Vermont and transform that into jobs,” says Leahy. “It will be a major factor in growing our economy.”

When VCET originally opened, President Daniel Mark Fogel called it a “watershed moment” for the University. UVM initiatives driven by the Provost’s Office complement VCET’s efforts by helping protect, market, and negotiate the sale of commercially viable intellectual property generated by faculty researchers. The payoff could potentially be significant for the researcher and the University, which has issued nearly 80 invention disclosures and licensed 26 patents in the last three years. VCET will ensure that research papers don’t sit on a shelf unused or leave the state to be developed elsewhere. With UVM’s sponsored projects funding consistently around $120 million annually, the time is ripe to protect and market these ideas.

“This is another demonstration of UVM’s relevance to the economy. Our success will be measured by number of jobs created and capital,” says VCET President Tom Rainey, who recently announced the another important step forward—the addition of more space for VCET tenants off-campus.

—Jon Reidel
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