Reaching Out to Business Innovators, Duquesne Helps to Drive Change

Posted on October 12, 2011

As new federal initiatives more deeply involve universities in facilitating business growth, Duquesne continues working to help entrepreneurs and small business owners to commercialize innovations that spring from technology research.

Duquesne is the only western Pennsylvania institution to be part of two U.S. Economic Development Administration awards in September intended to promote job growth in energy and innovation. The University received a $500,000 award from the University Center Economic Development Program Competition to support researchers and scientists in turning their discoveries into marketable goods, and to provide training  for green building, environmental management and renewable energy industries.

Duquesne also is a partner in a consortium that secured a $1.95 million Jobs & Innovation Accelerator Challenge award through an effort led by the Pittsburgh Central Keystone Innovation Zone (PCKIZ), an economic development generator co-founded by Duquesne that has caught the attention of the White House with its model program of business generation in the Hill District and other underserved communities.

“The value of Duquesne is helping to create businesses, working with our Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and the PCKIZ, to benefit the Pittsburgh region and particularly underserved communities,” said Dr. Alan W. Seadler, associate vice president for research. “Technology has been a major force driving Pittsburgh into its future economies in energy, health care and information technology.

“But the benefits of this technology-driven economy have skipped over some of our neighborhoods,” Seadler continued. “Part of Duquesne’s role is to develop collaborations that can bring the economic benefits of Pittsburgh’s technology to our neighbors and the broader underserved communities in our region. This is an essential part of our University mission.”

Duquesne already is engaged in guiding innovators through technology commercialization, through its SBDC;  involvement in the TechBelt Steering Committee, an organization focusing on innovation-based jobs in the Pittsburgh-Cleveland corridor, encompassing southwestern Pennsylvania, parts of West Virginia and northeastern Ohio;  as well as a participating in  the Energy U Business Plan Competition for  college students.

Two upcoming events focusing on innovation technology and entrepreneurism are planned for Thursday, Oct. 13, and Friday, Oct. 14.

On Oct. 13, from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Duquesne will host its first TCOMM Event on developing and commercializing new technologies. The conference, geared toward small businesses and innovators, will be held at Oakland’s Holiday Inn@University Center. It will feature sessions on early-stage funding for energy-related startups, managing intellectual properties, strategies for beta testing, developing corporate partnering, regional alternative financing and exporting technology.

“We are helping about 15 to 20 of the nearly 40 technology and innovation businesses in the PCKIZ, as well as ancillary businesses in the Hill District, so we have a clear understanding of what startup companies face in the Pittsburgh area,” said Dr. Mary McKinney, SBDC director. “Through our conferences, these new entrepreneurs have opportunities to interact with Pittsburgh’s foremost company founders and learn strategies to grow their companies. We are proud to lead the group of established businesses in stimulating more growth in the region.”

Dr. Lalit Chordia

At the TCOMM Event, the keynote speaker will be Dr. Lalit Chordia, president and founder of Thar Technologies Inc., which specializes in commercial geothermal technologies. He will detail his path to success, from the creation of new ideas to being named Small Business Administration Exporter of the Year.

“A lot of people, when they start companies, don’t have the experience or knowledge on aspects of doing business, such as international business and building relationships with big companies,” said Chordia, who has benefited from the SBDC’s services. “What this type of session allows is the ability to network with people who can speak from that experience.”

But that, Chordia said, is not the prime challenge for many innovators. “The main point is the ability to market your concept,” Chordia said. “The issue is making sure somebody else understands why your idea is good. We tend to be very technical in this area and good at developing things, but we are not the best at explaining the benefits to the customers—not the technical benefits, but how does this make their life simpler? How does it make their life easier?”

John Davis

On Oct. 14, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., nationally known speaker John Davis, who has assisted more than 100 businesses win government-provided Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant awards, will discuss how to secure some of the more than $1 billion a year that is available in governmental research and development awards.

Also hosted by the SBDC, this session will be in Rockwell Hall. Davis serves as the general manager and CEO of The SBIR Resource Center, a leading commercial provider of business development resources and software tools for transferring technology to the marketplace. With more than 30 years of experiences as an executive, research engineer and proposal writer, he is a popular speaker nationwide.

Davis will discuss intellectual property issues, how to best target agencies that provide funding, hints for proposal writing, estimating costs and developing budget proposals, and increasing your odds of winning grant money.

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