MIT's Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation awards $669,000 in grants to faculty research projects

Eight Winners Enter Innovation Pipeline That Has Produced Three Commercial Technologies in Two Years

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (October 25, 2004 ) -- The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation today announced it issued eight grants—five new projects and three renewals—totaling $669,000 from a pool of 34 applicants in its fall round of proposals. The grants, awarded to MIT faculty in the School of Engineering, will fund development of innovations ranging from a new method of early cancer detection to a breakthrough in the cost of manufacturing fuel cells.

In only two years since it was launched with the mission to bridge the gap between laboratory research at MIT and the marketplace, the Deshpande Center has funded 38 projects, with two of the first four Innovation Grant recipients spun out as new, venture-capital-backed companies and another project licensed for commercial use. The Center awards $50,000 Ignition Grants, which fund proof-of-concept explorations, and Innovation Grants ranging from $50,000 to $250,000 to help recipients assess and reduce the technical and market risks associated with their innovations.

"The fall Deshpande Center grant recipients are among the most exciting and dynamic innovations being developed in the world of academic research today," said Desh Deshpande, the founder and Chairman of Sycamore Networks who established and funded the Deshpande Center in 2002. "And it is just as gratifying to see many of our earliest grant winners fulfilling the original vision of the Deshpande Center by achieving commercial success so quickly."

The three Ignition and five Innovation Grants awarded in the fall round support a wide range of emerging technologies in cancer detection, nanofabrication, wireless communication, fuel cells, database management, chemical lab design, infrared sensors, and ice-cream making. The Center helps researchers bring their ideas to fruition by supporting market-driven innovation, assisting with the intellectual property process, and enabling collaboration throughout the R&D phase. Additionally, a Deshpande Center Catalyst program facilitates market input from a network of entrepreneurs and venture capitalists recruited by the Center to help advance the innovations to commercialization.

"Companies based on university research often get started much earlier than they should. Often the team has no choice; the research project must spin out or it dies for lack of support," said Vinod Khosla, founding CEO of Sun Microsystems and general partner of the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. "Ideally there should be a time of further exploration, before the innovation is ready for a business plan. This is the critical gap that the Deshpande Center is filling, and it's very important."

The early Deshpande grant winners that benefited from such transitional support and subsequently launched new commercial ventures are Brontes Technologies, a 3-D imaging company in Woburn, MA, and Pervasis Therapeutics, a medical device technology company in Cambridge, MA. Another Deshpande team's memory cell technology was licensed to a nanotechnology company. Several other start-ups are in the works; one of them, recently incorporated as Myomo, won the grand prize in the MIT $50K Entrepreneurship Competition in 2004.

"We are excited that all our efforts to build bridges between university research and the commercial world are working," said Deshpande Center Executive Director Krisztina Holly. "We are starting to see how the infusion of funding and hands-on expertise by the Deshpande Center at the earliest stage of a research project can effectively help reveal, develop, and accelerate its potential as a commercial technology. We look forward to working with the newest grant recipients and watching their innovations make an impact on people's lives."

The Fall 2004 Ignition Grant recipients are:

Novel ice-cream production method: John Brisson
This cheaper, more energy-efficient way to make ice cream could change large-scale ice-cream production as we know it—and generate a creamier dessert.

Finding early-stage cancers using novel contrast agents for enhanced MRI: Clark Colton
This technology could help pinpoint early stage tumors, dramatically improving the chances of cancer survival.

Low-cost multispectral infrared detector arrays: Lionel Kimerling and Anuradha Murthy Agarwal
The large potential for infrared sensors may be unlocked by this novel approach for making commodity-priced multispectral photodetector arrays.

The Fall 2004 Innovation Grant recipients are:

Making 3G and 4G a reality with low-cost amplifiers for wireless base stations: Chiping ChenThe cost of base station amplifiers has been a significant barrier to next-generation wireless deployment. A revolutionary new advancement of a decades old technology—microwave tubes—could change all that. (Renewal)

HexFlex: Enabling nanofabrication with a six-axis nanomanipulator: Martin Culpepper
Current developments in nanotechnology are limited by the difficulty of manipulating objects to extreme precisions; this invention is an elegant and inexpensive solution to the problem.

Accelerating innovation in the chemistry lab with integrated automated microchemical systems: Klavs Jensen
The classical chemical lab has changed little in the last hundred years—until now. These tiny "laboratories" could make chemical and pharmaceutical development faster, less expensive, and more innovative. (Renewal)

Engineered electrode assemblies for PEM fuel cells: Yang Shao-Horn
Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM) fuel cells have great potential for powering cars and other applications, but the most expensive part of the fuel cells, the electrode assemblies, have been cost-prohibitive—until now. (Renewal)

Hybrid DBMS optimized for read-intensive applications: Michael Stonebraker
Commercial database management systems are designed as "row" stores for update-intensive applications, leaving an opportunity for a radical new hybrid approach that is optimized for both reading and writing.

About the MIT Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation

The Deshpande Center is part of the MIT School of Engineering and was established in 2002 through an initial $20M gift from Jaishree Deshpande and Desh Deshpande, the co-founder and chairman of Sycamore Networks. It serves as a catalyst for innovation and entrepreneurship by supporting leading-edge research and bridging the gap between the laboratory and the marketplace. The Deshpande Center supports a wide range of emerging technologies including biotechnology, medical devices, information technology, new materials, "tiny technologies," and environmental innovations.