Nice story from New Mexico State University highlighting its participation in the NSF Innovation Corps — “Researcher teams with student” reads the headline.
The story highlights the value of the NSF I Corps and lean startup methodology as the firm pivoted from its initial focus on bullet resistant backpacks to its current focus on bringing improvement to the helmet industry. Its interesting to note that it was a university resource, Studio G, that appears to have coordinated and supported this team from NMSU. From the story by Vicki L. Nisbitt:
NMSU chemical engineering graduate student Brian Patterson is working with the technology through Studio G, and pursued the I-Corps funding opportunity with Xu and Studio G Director Kramer Winingham. The goal is to commercialize the lightweight and affordable material.
“Business ideas that are presented through this program have a direct impact on research and development and are closely related,” Patterson said. “Therefore, it’s important to understand the business components as they dictate the R&D direction.”
The team interviewed 100 potential customers to gain a better understanding of the market for their technology.
The I-Corps program and activities prepare scientists and engineers to extend their focus beyond the laboratory and broaden the impact of their projects. One of the I-Corps objectives is to have an entrepreneurial student who shows potential in business and technology handle the commercialization…
The DTMI material also has applications in football helmets and could help reduce concussion risk for players. The helmet shell materials with DTMI designs could increase impact-energy absorption at least 130 percent, compared to the current shell materials.
“A key finding during the I-Corps program was the opportunity for an advanced helmet shell design that could reduce concussions and adapt to other helmet technologies,” Winingham said. “This appears to be the best initial application for Dr. Xu’s technology.”
Nice to see student involvement, customer interviews, and clear role for customers data in the development of the technology and the firm. Excited to see how this all ends (though it will likely take awhile) and if this firm makes an ‘impact’ on concussions in sports and other areas where helmets are employed. Since this also appears to be a tech transfer play, it will be interesting to see the commercialization model and results.
Also, nice little tidbit on how the team is entering a helmet competition put on by the NFL, “As a result of the I-Corps program and the helmet shell design, Xu has been invited to submit a full-technical proposal, in collaboration with researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles, to the third NFL Head Health Challenge, an open competition to advance materials that better absorb or dissipate energy.”