Researchers Awarded Seed Grants from President’s Tech Development Fund

John Klier
John Klier
Shelly Peyton
Shelly Peyton
Deepak Ganesan
Deepak Ganesan

Two researchers in chemical engineering and another in computer science are among the recipients of $25,000 grants from the university system’s Tech Development Fund, which helps bring cutting-edge UMass research to market.

Eight projects across the five-campus system were awarded the grants, which were announced April 18 by President Marty Meehan.

Professor John Klier and associate professor Shelly Peyton of chemical engineering received a grant for their project “Novel associative hydrogels,”aimed atdeveloping novel microgel additives to dramatically enhance coating performance and appearance and enable new types of water-based coating systems. Other members of the team are doctoral student Yen Tran and undergraduate Matt Rasmuson.

Also receiving funding was computer science professor Deepak Ganesan for his project “Connecting the next billion mobile, IoT and wearable devices.” Ganesan is exploring a novel radio technology that allows small battery-powered devices to take advantage of battery power in larger devices nearby for communication, with the potential to significantly extend battery life for wearable devices.

“With these awards, we are recognizing innovation across our five campuses and investing in discoveries with the potential to spark the economy and change lives,” Meehan said. “These awards highlight faculty excellence and underscore the role of a public research university to advance knowledge and spur entrepreneurship and economic development.”

The Tech Development Fund is overseen by the Office of Technology Commercialization and Venture (OTCV), based at the President’s Office in Boston.

This year’s recipients, selected from a field of 45 applicants, were chosen for their project’s commercial viability, with the hope that development of the technology will lead to a startup company or licensing, according to Abigail Barrow, interim executive director of OTCV.

Since 2004, UMass has invested more than $2.5 million in faculty R&D projects, leading to $15 million in follow-on investment, generating numerous commercial licenses and patents and resulting in startup companies locating in Massachusetts.

“It’s been incredibly gratifying to see our investments result in new companies and new products being brought to market across the Commonwealth,” Meehan said. “We’re proud to help our faculty turn their research breakthroughs into viable commercial ventures that impact the people of Massachusetts and beyond.”

Funding for the annual awards comes from commercial licensing income on previous faculty discoveries along with a grant from the President’s Office. The university has a strong record of generating income from the commercialization of its academic research and typically places in the top 15 universities in a national survey of income generated by technology transfer.

Previous awards have led to numerous commercial licenses and patents as well as the creation of startup companies like Felsuma LLC in Somerville, Cyta Therapeutics in Lowell and Corsair Innovations in Dartmouth.