Polsky Center Pilots Proof-of-Concept Fund to Accelerate Tech Commercialization


The goal of the Polsky Center’s Proof-of-Concept Fund is to validate technologies and increase the potential for industry interest and follow-on capital from investors.

The Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation has launched a new “Proof-of-Concept Fund” to support University of Chicago researchers in de-risking early-stage technologies.

“By providing funding to bridge the gap between early-stage lab research and out-licensing activities, the Proof-of-Concept Fund will serve as a vehicle to advance data collection and accelerate technology commercialization,” said David Gross, senior director of technology marketing and innovation growth at the Polsky Center.

Awarded as milestone-based payments, funding will help support prototype development, conduct commercial feasibility tests, and advance research activities necessary to de-risk the technologies under development. The fund is intended to support internal research projects that do not have other sources of financial support to advance the commercial development of the proposed projects. All areas of research qualify, though the work must be patentable or copyrightable.

For the pilot program, the Polsky Center science and technology team solicited a short list of applicants based on knowledge of research projects that met these objectives. For the next iteration of the fund, the Polsky Center is planning to put out an open call for proposals.

Two researchers received funding as part of the pilot:

  • Michael Millis // Smoke Mitigation Device for Operating Room Electrosurgical Device

A professor of surgery, Millis has designed a device that helps remove surgical smoke from operating rooms, a known workplace hazard that has recently become a concern among surgeons and operating room staff. The invention consists of a semi-hollow ring that has one or more voids internally, each with an air input, and several small holes facing the center of the ring. It can attach to the forced air and vacuum lines (or both) that exist in traditional OR setups. The ring fits on top of existing wound protectors or can simply be placed around the surgical site to help reduce smoke.

>> Read more: Novel Device Helps Eliminate Smoke in the Operating Room, a Workplace Hazard for Surgical Teams

  • Henry Frisch // Proof-of-Principle of Surface Direct Conversion of 511 keV Gamma Rays

A professor in the University of Chicago’s experimental High Energy Physics group, Frisch has developed a new technique for detecting gamma rays that could change the paradigm of how PET scans are presently done. The invention eliminates the current need for expensive crystals and photodetectors, reducing costs and radiation levels, while increasing image resolutions.

>> Read more: New PET Scan Tech to Expand Patient Access, Improve Early Disease Detection

“Completing the funding program will help researchers obtain more meaningful data in preparation for participation in other Polsky Center entrepreneurship programming,” added Gross. “The Polsky Center is always looking to further support the translation of basic research and the innovators who are leading the way – whether improving working conditions for surgical teams in the operating room, opening up new avenues of early disease detection, or new advancements yet to come.”

// For more information, contact David Gross at davidgross@uchicago.edu.

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