UMass Amherst and Mass Ventures Announce Spin-Off

AMHERST, Mass. - The University of Massachusetts and Mass Ventures of Hadley have announced the creation of AIM Engineering, a new company based on UMass faculty research in multimedia wireless communication. The company is the first to be established through the combined efforts of Mass Ventures and the University''s Office of Commercial Ventures and Intellectual Property (CVIP).

"This represents CVIP''s first opportunity to help a faculty member form his or her own company based on new University intellectual property policies," says E. Bradley Moynahan, assistant vice chancellor and director of CVIP.

AIM Engineering offers consulting services in network communication and is working to develop wireless local area networks that support multimedia applications (voice and picture, in addition to data). The company grew out of the work of Aura Ganz, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, and her husband, Zvi Ganz, an engineer whose specialty is operations research and management. Zvi Ganz is president of AIM Engineering.

The College of Engineering, says Dean Joseph Goldstein, "has been developing an atmosphere whereby faculty can develop research which is of value to start-up or existing companies." Professor Ganz, he says, "is one of the first faculty to take advantage of this new atmosphere."

Mass Ventures is a venture development company created in 1995 through a partnership between the University, the regional business community, and the state. Its purpose is to foster economic development by providing management assistance, marketing, financing, and other services to emerging or existing companies.

"As a public land-grant institution, one of our missions is to benefit or add value to the society which supports us," says Frederick W. Byron, interim vice chancellor for research. "Mass Ventures and CVIP were established to help facilitate technology-transfer and the creation of spin-off companies to apply University research to the needs of society. At the same time, these companies also add to the economic development of the region."

Mass Ventures assisted AIM Engineering in developing the company''s business plan and negotiated licensing and royalty agreements with the University through CVIP. Also, AIM Engineering currently occupies office space in the Mass Venture Center in Hadley.

"This is exactly the kind of spin-off opportunity we hoped would arise out of the University when Mass Ventures was formed," says Tripp Peake, president and CEO of Mass Ventures. "The potential for the technology is very exciting. We still have a long way to go to build the company, but I''m very pleased with the progress to date and with the recently completed license negotiations."

According to Moynahan, the University will hold equity in AIM Engineering, and collect royalties on products developed with technology patented by the University.

AIM Engineering will also provide research opportunities for UMass students. "This is a challenging academic project," says Aura Ganz, "because it''s a real problem in the workplace that needs a real solution. Through AIM, students will have the opportunity to work on projects that innovate new intelligence and that''s very exciting."

Current wireless technology is limited, says Zvi Ganz, in that local area computer networks now allow for the exchange of data only - e-mail or the sharing of files, for example - but cannot accommodate voice or video with appropriate quality. The problem, says Aura Ganz, is to determine how to integrate a number of different applications into one wireless local network, and provide the mechanisms necessary to support them. "It''s like an arbitration process," she says. "The key is to develop the software and intelligence that controls or manages the flow of data."

Wireless technology is much more mobile, says Zvi Ganz. It''s also more practical for temporary events where wiring or cabling would be impossible or too costly, in newly constructed buildings, where cabling would not be required, and in existing structures, which may not be able to accommodate it. The technology would be particularly useful, he says, in hospitals, for example, to facilitate remote consultations between physicians, or at the New York Stock Exchange to allow better communication between traders.

AIM Engineering, says Ganz, may ultimately be able to provide core software that could be loaded onto a wireless network interface card or disc that a customer could install in a computer system to create a wireless local network with the desired capabilities.

At present AIM Engineering is an early-stage research and development company. However, Zvi Ganz expects that the company will be attractive to venture-capital firms, and may experience rapid growth in both sales and the number of its employees within the next five to seven years.

Aura Ganz has been a faculty member at UMass since 1987. In addition to her work with multimedia wireless local area networks, her research interests also include cellular communication, high speed networks, and satellite systems. Zvi Ganz received his Ph.D. in industrial engineering and operations research from UMass in 1991. Since 1994, he has focused his efforts on the establishment of AIM Engineering.