Launching a High-Tech Business

By Eric Spangler

A biomaterial that grows strong bone in six weeks is just one of the high-tech products being produced at the LaunchPad Incubation Program at the University of Toledo.

tnewtechcomp2Other innovative products being developed in the incubation program include semitransparent, flexible, thin-film photovoltaic coatings that convert sunlight to electricity; a broadcast studio powered by cloud computing; satellite imagery processed with algorithms to provide information on the world’s land and water resources; new bio-based specialty chemicals and polymers that do not rely on plant sugars used for human consumption; and photoelectrochemical systems that can generate hydrogen, using renewable energy sources.

The companies developing these products are all part of the LaunchPad Incubation Program, which offers entrepreneurial support for innovative, technology-based companies, says Jessica Sattler, director of economic engagement and business development programs.

“We really spent the last three-to-four years strengthening our core of serving technology-based, high-tech, high-growth companies,” she says. “We have new software platforms, new bone cement, new spinal screws, battery technology, solar technologies, so it’s a real mix of businesses that we serve,” says Sattler.

That mixture of start-up companies in one location is conducive to helping those companies succeed, she says. “The beauty of incubation is being together with other companies so you’re learning together,” says Sattler.

The incubation program’s focus on high-tech, high-growth business concepts is also important to the local economy, she says. “We’re creating jobs, but we’re not just creating any jobs. We’re creating typically high-tech jobs. They’re a little bit higher paying,” says Sattler.

“It also brings wealth to the region in the form of investments and it’s important, in my opinion, to service technology-based companies so that they can be successful,” she says.

In order to help those early-stage, technology-based start-up companies become successful the incubation program provides coaching and mentoring assistance; direct connections to the University of Toledo’s students, faculty and technology experts; and three state-of-the-art facilities that provide laboratory, office and manufacturing space, Sattler says.

Those facilities include the Research Technology Complex, which houses clean and alternative energy incubator tenant companies; the Laboratory Incubation Center, which is designed with science and technology businesses in mind; and the 40,000-square-foot Nitschke Technology Commercialization Complex that offers large, flexible spaces ready for customization, she says.

Other resources available to companies in the incubator program include a maker space with graphic prototyping lab and a media center with state-of-the-art cameras, software and computers, says Sattler. “We also have our co-working space where they can hold an event,” she says.

The incubation program’s core mission is to take business ideas from the initial concept through commercialization, says Sattler. The incubation program’s staff works with local funding sources to provide the start-up companies with access to capital and investment opportunities, she says.

One company that has graduated from the LaunchPad Incubation Program at the University of Toledo and found success is Roost, a technology company that offers web-based notifications, says Sattler. The company recently completed the Y Combinator program that works with companies and makes small investments in those businesses in return for small stakes.

“Roost is one that we always point to,” says Sattler. “They’ve done great things.”