Vermont Center for Emerging Technologies

Vermont Center for Emerging Technologies, Vermont Business Center Work Together to Help State's Entrepreneurs
August 18, 2006; by Meredith Woodward King
When the Vermont Center for Emerging Technologies opened last year on UVM's Trinity Campus, it was hailed as a watershed moment for both the university and Vermont.

But it also was the beginning of what VCET's president, Thomas Rainey, calls a "symbiotic relationship" between the state's technology business incubator and the university's Vermont Business Center.

Over the past year, a number of the VBC's seminars for Vermont entrepreneurs and family business owners have been held in the conference room of VCET's 4,000-square-foot space in Farrell Hall.

The facility includes offices and laboratories for VCET's five resident start-up companies. After a highly competitive selection process, they were granted all the perks that come with VCET client status, including business counseling;, introductions to angel investors, research faculty, accountants, attorneys, marketing specialists and other experts necessary for business expansion; and access to the university's libraries, and research databases and other assets . In return, VCET hopes the clients, all selected for their high-growth potential, create good-paying jobs for Vermonters.

The Vermont Business Center serves as an educational partner for VCET's clients, who often have devoted their lives to science and engineering but spent little time out in the business world.

"Our programming, including our management education, spans all stages of companies, including the start-up, which is what VCET serves," according to Janice St. Onge, director of the the VBC who also serves on VCET's client selection committee. "We're working in partnership with VCET to develop programming that will be of value to the entrepreneurial community."

For Rainey, that relationship serves another purpose: The The VBC's seminars draw small-business entrepreneurs to VCET and allows them to see "all that we have going on down here."

He sees the possibilities inherent in allowing members of the the VBC's community to rub shoulders with VCET's business clients. Owners of older, more successful Vermont businesses could serve as mentors to start-ups at VCET. Business experts who lead VBC seminars could offer advice and later benefit from their involvement in a high-growth start-ups. And entrepreneurs attending VBC seminars could apply to become clients of VCET.

The client selection process is competitive because it is critical to the success of VCET and, ultimately, Vermont's economic development, according to Rainey.

"We need to see how coachable a potential client is, how committed they are to launching a business," he explained. "It helps if they have some proprietary technology. We look at how fundable their business model is. … They need to demonstrate that they have some working capital and a good business plan. … We're looking at businesses that are '"scaleable'" and will grow beyond a few- person company.

"Last but not least is the ability for VCET to add value to the equation," he said. "How would they benefit from being located in our space? To what extent could they accelerate their business model based on the support network we have here at VCET?"

One of VCET's first clients, ElectroCell Technologies Inc., already is a success story. After a little over a year with VCET, ElectroCell is graduating from the program this summer. The company treats animal waste using low levels of electricity.

"Through VCET, ElectroCell Technologies has partnered with Green Mountain Power and opened some strategic doors up in Quebec to do a demonstration project to clean up animal waste and wastewater from industrial areas," Rainey said. The company's representatives also haves traveled nationwide to sell a number of theirits $75,000 machines.

VCET, which is a non-profit entity affiliated with UVM and other educational institutions, currently is working with a number of other companies, and most reside on the Trinity Campus:
  • Apollo SRI, a UVM spin-off company that uses nano-porous, micro silica material for filtering pharmaceutical products. The companyy are also is exploring drug delivery applications that someday may someday be used to treat diseases such as lung cancer.
  • Bulldog Entertainment, which has licensed technology from Austria to create digital touch-screen technology for online gaming, allowing gamers to challenge one another in real time from games kiosks throughout the United Statescountry.
  • SemiProbe, which is developing probe stations for the semiconductor industry.
  • Pie Matrix, a software company whose founder moved from Silicon Valley to Vermont. The software allows a company to manage information technology projects worldwide, allowing employees in, say, New York, London and Bangalore, India, to work together more efficiently.
  • Global Classroom USA, an online resource for teachers, which is renting space from VCET. The Web site at provides teachers with a virtual classroom where they can post curricula, search job openings, create blogs and more. The company recently moved from Atlanta, and its founder, Burr Warne , is hiring programmers "to grow the space to the next level," including online podcasting courses and content developed by teachers, Rainey said.
  • Draker Solar Design, an affiliate based in an office on North Avenue in Burlington. Draker places data acquisition technology in alternative energy facilities to monitor and measure the amount of power being generated.
Currently, VCET is looking at more companies to invite to the Trinity Campus and, in the future, hopes to open another facility in the Burlington area that would house another 10 to 15 clients.

"We have some exciting new companies in the pipeline," Rainey said.
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