A few years ago, Fredrik Ryden was a Ph.D. student in the Department of Electrical Engineering at the University of Washington. He studied integrating telerobotics with haptics, which is the use of a physical sensation to give feedback, such as the vibration of a smart phone when a button on the screen is pushed. While finishing his degree, he became interested in the commercial potential of his research. Working with UW CoMotion, he used a CoMotion Innovation Fund grant to explore marine applications for his technology. After he graduated, he became a CoMotion Commercialization Fellow, which helps recent graduates continue to explore the commercialization potential of their work after they finish their degree.
This gave Fredrik the opportunity to do still more proof-of-concept work, while also letting him define potential customer needs and secure additional funding. This eventually led to him receiving a National Science Foundation SBIR grant to develop the technology. Ultimately, he helped form BluHaptics, where he is Chief Technology Officer. BluHaptics is now starting sales of a product based on UW technology for enhanced robotic control.
Ryden’s story was highlighted by Ryan Buckmaster, a Technology Manager and member of CoMotion’s Innovation Development group, during a presentation on gap funding at the Association of University Technology Managers Western Region meeting last month in Honolulu, Hawaii. Buckmaster spoke of the uniqueness of the CoMotion Commercialization Fellows Program (CFP) and shared that the CFP has had 33 fellows from 17 departments, supporting students from the bachelor’s to the postdoc level. To date, CoMotion Commercialization Fellows have started 17 startups based on University of Washington technology.
The session on gap funding was one of two that Buckmaster spoke at during the meeting. For four days, technology managers from universities around the western states, as well as private business leaders, gathered to network, swap ideas, and learn how colleagues approach similar situations. Topics ranged from the basics of intellectual property to specific issues related to doing business around the Pacific Rim. CoMotion was well represented with six attendees.