Workshop tackles a critical gap slowing development of new hardware

The growing gap in the transition of inventions from research laboratories to market is slowing the development and scale of new hardware technologies in the United States. This is especially evident in the complex microelectronics progress in which the US leadership has lagged. A workshop on semiconductor technology translation and hard-tech startups recently gathered stakeholders from across the country to analyze this challenge and propose solutions.

Presented jointly by MIT, the State University of New York (SUNY), and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) last month, the virtual event was organized by academic researchers, members of industry, venture capital firms, state and federal agencies, nonprofits, brought the enterprise together. For a broader conversation about accelerators, and how startups regain American leadership.

In his inaugural address, MIT Provost Martin Schmidt challenges speakers and attendees to seize the moment. “We need to think boldly, act decisively, be ready to reinvent our practices and not be burdened by outdated models of engagement,” said Schmidt, who took over as RPI’s presidency in July. “This workshop will tackle an area that is ripe for work, and that is the process by which we influence education work through commercialization.”

An audience of 632 individuals joined 30 invited speakers to discuss four sessions: innovation ecosystem, stakeholder perspectives, building proto-companies and startups, and startup experiences and shared features. “It takes a village to develop an innovative idea into a prototype. It can then become a product that is expected to reach millions of people,” said MIT.Nano, Faculty Director of MIT.Nano, and Workshop Co. -said the organizer Vladimir Bulovich. “Initiating and maintaining more hard-tech startups will create more technology and more new jobs, benefiting established industry partners, nurturing new industries and revitalizing American leadership in microelectronics.”

environment created for success

What contributes to a thriving innovation ecosystem – and how do we build one for the hard-tech? Fiona Murray, William Porter (1967) Professor of Entrepreneurship and Associate Dean of Innovation and Inclusion at the MIT Sloan School of Management, suggested three main features: a strategic focus, a system of key resources for founders such as human talent and funding, and stakeholder connectivity – a community built intentionally around priority areas.

Watch a video playlist of Tech Translation Workshop presentations.

This concept of connectivity resonated throughout the workshop. “Proximity fosters connectivity fosters collaboration,” said Bob Metcalf, professor emeritus of innovation and entrepreneurship at the University of Texas at Austin. Metcalf noted seven “species” needed for a thriving startup ecosystem: funding agencies, research professors, graduate students, scaling entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, strategic partners and early adopters.

To explore the perspectives of these multiple stakeholders, the workshop was attended by experts from different geographical locations in different roles. Speaking from an industry and venture capital perspective, Applied Materials Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer Onkaram Nalamasu, Intel Capital Managing Director Sean Doyle and In-Q-Tel Managing Director Eileen Tangal offer advice on what they look for when investing. Huh. difficult technique. Common themes included proof of concept, shared-development facilities for both cost and efficiency, access to talent and the ability to engage customers.

“Hard-tech startups have this very wide valley of death. They face a lot of challenges when it comes to finding the right people, getting money and securing partnerships.” said Tanghal, Aging in the Semiconductor Sector Described barriers to startups such as reduced workforce, supply chain issues and difficulties in finding the first customer.

from university to commercialization

The expansion of the talent pool has its constraints. Julie Lenzer, chief innovation officer at the Advanced Regenerative Manufacturing Institute, discusses the challenges universities face in supporting hard tech – the slow pace of academics, risk aversion, intellectual property (IP) ownership, mission misalignment when faced by faculty or students. Entrepreneurial activity is not observed by the institution, and the problem is that universities do not produce finished products for the market.

“Often, when we come out of the lab, it is a very low and slow technology preparation level; This is very early technology,” said Lenzer, formerly chief innovation officer at the University of Maryland. “It presents a high technical risk – is it going to work? We don’t know yet, but it will take a lot of capital to get there. Is the market ready for it? Is there a way to work for anyone? Is disrupting much better? It’s not just about technology, it’s about market opportunities.”

Support systems are needed to help build hard-tech startups. Greentown Labs Membership Senior Director Jason Ethier, Active Executive Managing Director Amy Rose, and Howard University College of Engineering and Architecture Director of Innovation Grant Warner explored best practices for preparing founders, articulating a business vision, marketing Emphasized the importance of understanding the need. And being open-minded and coachable.

startup perspective

The workshop also called upon startup founders to share experiences and pain points. Veronica Stelmakh, CEO and co-founder of Mesodyne, headlined a number of entrepreneurship competitions and accelerator events in which she and her co-founders learned to discover clients, learn how to run a business, and which grants to apply for. ran away.

Now, she said, their main challenge is cost reduction. “For that we need volume. To get volume, we need traction with customers. To get traction with customers, you need a product, and if your product is expensive, you’re not there.” It’s a chicken and egg problem, so we need programs, especially for hard-tech startups, that enable us to build things with limited resources.”

Access to shared facilities and tool sets to help reduce costs and promote the development of new hard-tech technologies was a theme repeated throughout the workshop. “Space is precious,” said John Icoponi, vice president of technology strategy at NY Creates, which runs the Albany Nanotech Complex. “We find that startups need to have the ability to convert materials, flexible space and equipment that no entity can afford to buy.”

In closing, Bob Karlisek, Professor of Electrical, Computer and Systems Engineering at RPI and co-organizer of the workshop, spoke about the challenges facing the academia. “We need fab technology earlier in the educational process,” Karlisek said. “We need more student-and-faculty-accessible fabs to build that talent pool, and drive much faster innovation at the university level. We need to think about IP strategies to protect startups. We need better startups.” Phase I funding model, reserve early stage capital needs large pools.”

“Universities should be viewed not only as training the next engineers, but as talent generators for the next batch of entrepreneurs,” continued co-organizer Nick Querques, director of new ventures at the SUNY Research Foundation. “Significant capital is needed at all levels, starting with non-dilutive government funding for technologies and multi-institutional centers, and ending with investment from industry in both startups and facilities.”

The workshop on Semiconductor Technology Translation and Hard-Tech Startups demonstrated a high level of concern and interest from stakeholders across the country to improve the process of acquiring new hard-techs in the market. For change, it will take the whole ecosystem.

“It’s not just the idea, it’s the process of growing that idea, training the talent, and understanding the stakeholders you face,” Bulovic summarized. “We need a national program which can bring many more startups on a big scale. We need more shots at target, and that will lead to greater success and resurgence in the national ability to recapture dominance in the microelectronics and many other hard-tech industries. ,

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