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Effort connects innovators with companies, investors

A nationwide Web site launched earlier this year can help connect local innovators with manufactures and investors.

The USA National Innovation Marketplace is a service of the Manufacturing Extension Partnership, which is a national network with hundreds of specialists who understand the needs of small and midsize manufacturers. The site can help firms negotiate with potential partners and create and find new ideas to grow a business.

Proponents say the program will help revitalize supply chains by providing the tools to transition from contracting sectors to emerging technologies and new market opportunities.

John Steele, manager of growth services for High Technology of Rochester Inc.’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership, said the service can help create businesses based around innovation and is a place where companies and investors can connect.

The site can help those interested forecast sales, test concepts and provide concise information to potential investors, Steele said. Company leaders are able to understand and evaluate innovation opportunities in 60 seconds.

It is hard to track how many local people have been on the site, but Steele has instructed more than 100 at local manufacturing companies and universities, as well as independent inventors, he said.

Of the 761 concepts that have been placed on the site since its April 20 launch, 20 of them are from around Rochester and another five or six are being evaluated, Steele said.

Jack Fraser, deputy director of the University of Rochester’s Office of Technology Transfer, works with the university’s engineering personnel, helping them commercialize technologies. The engineering department typically shops some 40 technologies per year to companies for product development.

Fraser recently participated in a training program led by Steele for universities, assisting them with tools to transform technology lingo into business speak-for example, referring to technology as a product.

The National Innovation Marketplace is a good outlet for pitching an idea, particularly to target markets, Fraser said. "It’s a natural fit."

Fraser has placed one technology on the site-a lightweight but strong part for engines that would make vehicles more efficient. An ideal fit would be with an auto parts maker, he said.

He also is working on putting another technology on the site related to a medical diagnostic product.

Arkansas, Kansas, Maine and Vermont have since created their own state-centric versions of the Web-based marketplace to try to boost local economies. Steele said discussions are ongoing in New York to do the same.

The national program was discussed in June by Vice President Joseph Biden, who expects the site to grow from a tiny pilot program into a full-fledged initiative. It aims to help manufacturers transition from aging industries to new manufacturing sectors, making them self-sustaining and creating middle-class jobs.

To learn more about the National Innovation Marketplace, go to: www.planeteureka.org/marketplace.

8/21/09 (c) 2009 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303.

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