Share the Vision to highlight University's pipeline of innovation


Illini Studio Photography

Aerospace Engineering professor Soon-Jo Chung holds a quadcopter while speaking at Share the Vision 2013, an annual research and start-up showcase sponsored by the Office of Technology Management and EnterpriseWorks.

By Emily Scott

Hosted by the Office of Technology Management and EnterpriseWorks, this year’s event will take place on Oct. 8 at the I-Hotel and Conference Center and EnterpriseWorks.

This year, 18 faculty and startups from two separate tracks — healthcare and robotics/computer vision/network security — will exhibit their research and progress through presentations. New this year is a lunch-time poster session, where emerging start-ups will present information and demonstrations.

“Every showcase that we’ve had, we’ve had increasing attendance, and it’s really grown to be a vibrant event and great opportunity to build relationships,” said Lisa Dhar, senior associate director at the Office of Technology Management. “We’re looking for just opportunities where startups can be launched or partnerships with companies can be strengthened or established.”

Participating companies include Google and IBM Research, as well as members of the University, local venture capitalists from the Chicago area and local community members.

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Dhar said Share the Vision’s goal is to establish as many connections as possible by heightening visibility around the University’s pipeline of innovation.

“It can lead to more research collaborations between outside companies and our researchers here,” Dhar said. “It can lead to conversations about transitioning technology that’s been developed here to a company, or it can lead to discussions about possibly starting a company.”

Paul Braun, Ivan Racheff professor of materials science and engineering and affiliate of the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology, said he hopes to build these connections at the event.

Braun will present his group’s progress on creating sensor materials for extended, continuous glucose monitoring. He said his group has created a material whose volume changes linearly with blood-glucose levels.

“This provides a way to have continuous monitoring of blood glucose,” Braun said. “Our vision is that this could be done for a diabetic to provide much more real-time information on their blood glucose levels, which could be then directly used for things like insulin dosing, basically to improve their quality of life.”

Currently, diabetics have a few options for glucose monitoring, such as the traditional finger prick, which instantaneously gives a blood-glucose level. There are also meters that provide continuous levels, but this method is not completely accurate.

“Our material has the kind of accuracy that is required to take the human out of the loop,” Braun said. “So you could now be doing insulin dosing directly based on the readout of some biomedical device without having the patient observe the data and verify its accuracy.”

This research could offer a solution to the growing diabetic population in the U.S. and worldwide. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2014 National Diabetes Statistic Report, 29.1 million people in the U.S. have diabetes.

Braun said events like “Share the Vision” give him an opportunity to connect with partners who may be able to help him turn his vision into a commercial success.

“These could be people from companies that have certain needs and they recognize that your technology can meet one of their needs,” he said. “Then, they’ll partner with you and the University to help move these fundamental efforts into something that is technologically relevant.”

Braun also explained that Share the Vision is a valuable resource for faculty like him who do not have regular contact with the outside entrepreneurial community, since C-U is somewhat geographically isolated.

“Unlike our colleagues, say, in Boston, or in San Jose, there aren’t a hundred of these groups that are just outside our door, that we can reach out to at any time,” he said. “This helps bring the world to us.”

Bringing the world to the University is just what Share the Vision aims to achieve. The University of Illinois system was recently ranked as the world’s 21st most innovative university system by a Reuters study. Nicole Nair, assistant director for marketing and communications at the Office of Technology Management, said this ranking adds to the significance of this year’s event.

“Share the Vision is just one event in a really robust and extensive series of resources the University has to support innovators and entrepreneurs,” Nair said. “I think the ranking reflects everything the University has put in place and everything’s that grown out of what they’ve put in place.”

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