CU profs, students tout innovative ideas

BOULDER – Coming soon: potentially revolutionary ways to ship vaccines, interact with students and – most critically – store skis.

At least that is what University of Colorado-Boulder professors and students who presented at the annual CU Innovations Breakfast on Wednesday are hoping their ideas can achieve.

The event is presented each year by the Boulder Chamber as one of its annual Esprit entrepreneurship events. Historically, presenters work with the CU Technology Transfer Office to test their ideas or launch their companies. This year the event was broadened to entrepreneurs who developed their ideas working with other CU centers, such as Silicon Flatirons or the Deming Center for Entrepreneurship.

Some of the companies presented technology that seems to be fresh off the lab bench, such as professor Rich Noble’s membrane that could purify water. Scientifically, the membrane relies on reverse osmosis and nanofiltration techniques. A potential application is purifying the water that oil and gas companies generate when they drill. Those companies are required to treat water before returning it to the ground, and a company with a practical product could win big as the global water-treatment market is expected to reach $38.2 billion by 2015, Noble said.

Getting vaccines to remote areas is a problem on which the scientists at Nanoly are working. They want to do it by developing a nanoparticle-based chemical shield that allows vaccines to be transported without being refrigerated. Nanoly was cofounded by Balaji Sridhar, an M.D./Ph.D student who works with well-known CU researcher Kristi Anseth.

Nanoly’s ideas have helped it win an impressive collection of honors, including third place out of 1,800 teams at the 2012 Dell Social Innovation Challenge, Sridhar said. Nanoly continues research and faces an extensive testing and review process, Sridhar said.

Snowgate LLC addresses a problem closer to home. Securing and storing skis and equipment at resorts is a familiar problem for skiers, and theft is a growing concern. Snowgate is trying to solve it by building an outdoor ski rack and locker system that identifies owners by using radio frequency identification chips. The system is similar to Boulder B-Cycle kiosks, and Snowgate is working with the company that developed the kiosks to build its prototypes, founders Cory Finney and Christian Nitu said.

Software development and clean tech were represented by Gogy Inc. and Rebound Technology, respectively.

Gogy, founded by professor Bret Fund at CU’s Leeds School of Business, is attempting to develop a program professors can use to make their lectures more interactive. The presentations would incorporate social media links, bookmarks and real-time notes from students. The program could also be used by presenters at conferences.

Gogy has about 300 users and is in the alpha testing stage. The company hopes to produce a “commercial beta release” by January, Fund said.

Rebound Technology is trying to develop a water-based energy-storage system that allows users to recover waste heat and store energy during non-peak hours, both of which could save money for large industrial users of energy.  

Rebound Technology is working on a prototype and trying to obtain research grants, cofounder Russell Muren said.

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