UW-Stevens Point professor receives Ideadvance entrepreneurial grant
​Mike ​Zach

A University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point professor is among 12 UW faculty, staff, students and affiliated companies selected to receive up to $25,000 each through the Ideadvance Seed Fund. 

Associate Professor of Chemistry Mike Zach received the award for his EChemNanowires Educational Foundation. It is the only educational idea awarded in the initial round of successful projects. The grant will help Zach develop a business plan that moves a nanowire technique from the academic lab to the classroom and business world. 

The grants, awarded by UW Extension and its partners, also include business mentoring to help awardees develop a strategic business model for ideas and technologies generated at UW campuses. UW System and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) created the $2 million seed fund, which launched in February. 

The awardees include four students, three faculty, two staff and three companies licensing technologies from the WiSys Technology Foundation or the UW-Milwaukee Research Foundation. Teams that complete this first stage of Ideadvance activities will be eligible for stage two funding, which offers grants up to $50,000. 

Zach has developed an electroplating technique that allows the manufacture of patterned nanowires and nanowire circuits without the need for an expensive cleanup facility. Nanowires are tiny structures that are potentially useful in electronics, sensing, medical devices and even engineering of infrastructure such as bridges and buildings. These wires are so tiny that a bundle of 1 million of the thinnest nanowires is thinner than a single strand of a spider web. 

His NanoFab Lab is a kit allows high school science students to grow nanowires in the classroom. They learn cutting-edge science as a challenge that mimics a video game, which engages students. “NanoFab Lab … in a Box!™ kit is the best educational tool I have been exposed to in my career,” said Sam Kutzler, science teacher at Bradley Technology and Trade School in Milwaukee. 

Training students to be “nano-ambassadors” will introduce this technique to various industries, where it can be used in fabricating, medical, electrical and infrastructure, Zach said. “This is going to create jobs in central Wisconsin. Making these kits is the tip of the iceberg.” 

The other inaugural stage-one awardees include:

Ø  NanoAffix Science led by Junhong Chen of UW-Milwaukee

Ø  Innovative Foundry Technologies led by Dan McGuire of UW-Whitewater

Ø  Cyder Technology led by Nathan Gullick of UW-Extension

Ø  Tali Payments led by Carlton Reeves of UW-Milwaukee

Ø  CSA Pros led by Kory Peterson of UW-Eau Claire

Ø  Grypshon led by Tom Burden of UW-Milwaukee

Ø  HealthPet led by Jonathan Geissler of UW-Platteville

Ø  Paddle-Kicker led by Ashton Brusca of UW-Platteville

Ø  Organic Research Corporation licensed technology from UW-Milwaukee Research Foundation

Ø  Microionics patents through WiSys

Ø  Procubed licensed Technology from WiSys

“The grant recipients represent a broad range of commercialized technologies, solutions to problems and creative ideas enhancing the world in which we live,” said Lisa Johnson, WEDC vice president for entrepreneurship and innovation and member of the Ideadvance investment committee. “Ideadvance creates a foundation for university entrepreneurs by setting the stage where they can take their ideas and technology to commercialization and a successful company launch – right here in Wisconsin. It also demonstrates that university entrepreneurship can lead to long-term economic growth through company formation and job creation.” 

In addition, UW-Extension’s Division of Entrepreneurship and Economic Development is opening another stage one funding round. Proposals are due July 25. Idella Yamben, new idea concierge for the grant program, invites potential applicants to contact her at uwideadvance@uwex.edu or 608-263-3315 for assistance in identifying resources to prepare a competitive proposal. 

The Ideadvance Seed Fund provides support for entrepreneurs as they evaluate product or service ideas, explore key markets, validate demand and develop strategies for investment sources. Unlike most early stage funding, this seed fund encourages ideas from all disciplines, including the humanities, social sciences and liberal arts.  Grants are available for faculty, staff and students who are part of the UW System or affiliated with WiSys or the UW-Milwaukee Research Foundation.



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