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Inventors Invited to Engineering Center Kickoff

A researcher processes semiconductor wafers in the University of Utah's nanofabrication lab. Experienced engineers use advanced facilities and techniques like this at the university's new Center for Engineering Innovation, which transforms inventors' ideas into ready-to-manufacture devices.

Oct. 15, 2013 – The University of Utah’s Center for Engineering Innovation opens its doors Thursday, Oct. 17 with a kickoff celebration to demonstrate how it transforms inventions into ready-to-produce devices. The public event will include speed dating that enables inventors and companies with new product ideas to meet engineers for 15 minutes to explore bringing concepts to market.

“It’s about generating leads by discovering what inventors’ needs are,” says center staff member Loren Rieth, a research associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at the university. “If it’s not a match, the center is good at playing switchboard to plug them into other resources here.”

The center’s kickoff event will run 2-5 p.m. at the university’s James L. Sorenson Molecular Biotechnology Building – a USTAR Innovation Center.

Leveraging Utah Science Technology and Research Initiative investments, this unique center makes advanced manufacturing technologies publicly accessible. Housed within the College of Engineering and closely aligned with Utah Nanofab – the university facility that builds micro- and nanoscale devices – center staff members collaborate with university engineering and health sciences faculty to transform ideas into production-ready prototypes. Engineers guide clients through front-end activities, including writing project proposals. Prototypes then are crafted in university facilities and undergo reliability testing.

“We’re bridging the gap between basic science, engineering innovation and the commercial product,” says Florian Solzbacher, center director and a University of Utah electrical and computer engineering professor.

Although ramping up, the center is working on six product-development contracts and eight additional contracts for academia, government agencies, start-ups and established firms. Projects include micro- and nanofabrication, packaging technology  and neural interface technology. Center engineers also have collaborated on ultrahigh-density Utah electrode arrays for biomedical research. Center staff projects working on as many as 140 engineering projects annually within the next few years.

The center enables clients to continue inventing, rather than cope with everyday manufacturing realities. Engineering students gain experience by working with engineers to create industrial-grade prototypes, giving them an edge when entering the job market. Utah’s business climate also could receive a boost.

“Utah is on track to become a powerhouse of advanced technologies in a number of areas, including engineering for geosciences, biomedicine and the healthcare sector – there’s a wealth of strong companies,” Solzbacher says. “The university’s unique capabilities, coupled with our center, allow us to be more successful in translating technologies into business. There’s no other resource like this with a cleanroom, on-site personnel and the knowledge base. We’re not just another engineering shop.”

The center furthers the College of Engineering’s ability to transform ideas into products; in 2012, the college issued 103 invention disclosures and received 19 patents.

Free, on-campus parking will be available for the kickoff. To RSVP for the event, including speed dating, contact Clark Newell.

For more information, click here.