Startup ex machina
The Scout robot has come a long way from early prototype shown here. Under continued development by University of Minnesota startup ReconRobotics, Scout is now assisting more than soldiers. Since its launch in 2006, the company has applied the technology to safeguard law enforcement and security officers. Of the 4,800 robots deployed around the world, a growing portion are employed by SWAT and counter-terrorism teams.
“We take valuable technologies out of the lab and apply them to better the human condition,” says Andrew Borene, director of business development for ReconRobotics.
“The greatest ideas in the world are of little use if we can’t use them to benefit the lives of regular people.”
The Biotechnology Resource Center (BRC) offers state-of-the-art lab space and equipment to biotechnology companies of all kinds, from small startups to global corporations, working on biotech endeavors that run the gamut. The BRC has been home to a handful of startups getting their technology in shape for commercialization.
For some startups, had they not come across the BRC, the team would have to work out of their garage. “We work with industry to provide them with services to get an idea off the ground, or to do work they wouldn’t want to do or couldn’t do at their main lab,” says Tim Tripp, director of BRC.
It was clear early on that Shawn Wilhelm’s design for a new, highly efficient hydraulic pump had a lot of market potential (the original prototype shown here with the back plate removed). Hydraulic pumps are machines widely used in industrial settings to move liquids from one place to another. The only problem for Wilhelm, a mechanical engineering Ph.D. student in the University of Minnesota’s College of Science and Engineering, was that business wasn’t his forte.
That all changed with Minnesota Innovation Corps’ STARTUP course. The University program aims to take the mystery out of commercializing technology and encouraging students to pursue opportunities in innovation.
“It’s really important to step out of your engineering shoes and just start listening to customers’ needs,” said Wilhelm.