Launching startup companies like M3 is one key way that public research universities contribute to economic development. In addition to introducing a product or service to the market that solves global challenges or meets consumer needs, these companies create new jobs. Graduate students in the lab of entrepreneurial professors are also often heavily involved in startups, giving them business and leadership experience that expands their job opportunities. WSU’s Office of Commercialization works with researchers to navigate through every part of the startup process, from initially disclosing information about the invention, to securing patents, to developing a business plan and finding funding.
A sample of successful startups:
Researcher: John Wenz, DVM, MS
Problem: Veterinarians do not have a reliable way to track outcomes of the health management techniques used on dairy cows.
Solution: A health record database that imports and evaluates health data from existing dairy management software to determine outcomes of health management. This gives the veterinarian more information about the effectiveness of treatments and the impact of disease on cow productivity.
Impact: Veterinarians can use the evaluations to ensure consistent, effective health management.
Microwave Assisted Thermal Sterilization (MATS™) System and 915 Labs
Researcher: Juming Tang, PhD, biological systems engineer
Problem: Traditional food processing reduces the nutritional value and quality of food
Solution: A new sterilization method that eliminates pathogens faster while maintaining nutritional value and taste.
Impact: The technology has the potential to revolutionize the food processing industry, which has not changed in nearly 100 years. It is exclusively licensed to startup company 915 Labs, which has both pilot- and full-scale MATS systems running at a major consumer packaged goods company and two co-packers. 915 Labs and WSU have organized boot camps in Pullman for food processing companies that have interest in the MATS B and MATS-150 systems.
MYM LLC. Incorporated
Researcher: Matt Whiting, PhD, horticulturist
Problem: Fruit orchardists do not have a precise way to measure how many cherries are picked, and no fluid process of getting that information accurately to payroll.
Solution: The FairWeigh system allows fruit pickers to easily weigh fruit in the orchard. Data from the system is sent directly to people who are managing harvest and payroll, streamlining and improving accuracy of payroll, while also keeping better track of the harvest process.
Impact: The process can save farmers money, allow more flexibility in picking, and guarantee fair pay for pickers.
Researcher: Amit Dhingra, PhD, plant genomist
Problem: Traditional plant growing methods are lengthy and inefficient, delaying ROI to farmers
Solution: A soil-free plant multiplication method that accelerates plant growth, conserves water, reduces need for pesticides
Impact: The company has shipped 300,000 plants to date, saving hundreds of thousands gallons of water. 500,000 plants will be available by 2016. The company also employs around 20 full time and 34 part-time people in Washington State.
Researcher: Jacob Leachman, PhD, engineer
Problem: To have a truly renewable energy feature, we need more sources and storage options
Solution: A company that liquefies and stores hydrogen to make it a scalable, affordable fuel source thanks to the technologies and processes developed in Jacob Leachman’s lab.
Impact: The success of the company could position Washington as a pioneering state in a new hydrogen economy for the country. WSU students are heavily involved in developing Protium and related technologies, offering hands-on training that will result in graduates ready to participate in a hydrogen fuel workforce.
By the Numbers: 2010–2014
21 startups formed
367 patents filed
353 new inventions disclosed