Celebration puts the spotlight on innovation

Category : EnterpriseWorks
Posted on: March 5, 2008


By Don Dodson

Sunday March 2, 2008

Robin Scholz

Student Start-Up award winner Patrick Walsh, left, talks with Social Entrepreneurship Award winner Madhu Viswanathan at the Innovation Celebration at the Beckman Institute last week.

CHAMPAIGN –Eleven people were honored last week for encouraging technological development in Champaign County, either through their own innovations or their support of others’ efforts.

Winners at the annual Innovation Celebration – an event sponsored by the Champaign County Economic Development Corp. and several entities at University of Illinois – included:

  • Scott R. White, UI professor of aerospace engineering and chief executive officer of Autonomic Materials Inc., who received the Innovation Discovery Award.

  • Gary Gladding, Tim Stelzer, Mats Selen and Benny Brown of the UI’s Physics Department, who co-developed the iClicker and were given the Technology Transfer Award.

  • Jeff Mellander, founder of Precision Graphics, who received the Longevity Through Innovation Award.

  • Patrick Walsh, a UI student majoring in physics who worked to develop Solar Flash and got the Student Start-Up Award.

  • Kirk Dauksavage, chief executive officer of RiverGlass, who was given the Entrepreneurial Excellence in Management Award.

  • Rob Schultz, senior director of IllinoisVentures, who was given the Economic Development Impact Award.

  • Alan Singleton, a Champaign attorney working with founders of startup companies, who received the Entrepreneur Advocacy Award.

  • Madhu Viswanathan, UI associate professor of business administration and director of the Marketplace Literacy Project, who won the Social Entrepreneurship Award.

Scott White

At Wednesday’s ceremony at the Beckman Institute, presenter Charles Zukoski, the UI’s vice chancellor for research, said White is recognized internationally as the father of “self-healing” technology, developing materials that can repair themselves.

White’s most recent breakthroughs have been in microvascular materials systems that will help materials of the future not only to self-heal, but also to regulate their temperature, sense their environment, adapt and reconfigure on demand.

In 2005, White founded Autonomic Materials Inc. to develop industrial applications for the technologies he’s developed.

The iClicker team

Gladding, Stelzer, Selen and Brown developed the iClicker as a way that physics students could respond to conceptual questions raised in class. The device has since been commercialized and has been adopted for use at more than 550 institutions, including Clemson, Cornell, Brigham Young, Boston College and the University of Colorado at Boulder.

The system was developed in 2003 and was acquired by Macmillan US in 2005. Last year, 300,000 units were sold, and on the UI campus alone, more than 10,000 units are being used, Gladding and Stelzer said. The units cost about $30.

Jeff Mellander

Mellander founded Precision Graphics in 1977. The Champaign-based company employs 48 and produces medical, scientific and technical illustrations for use by publishers and other corporations. The company works with new technology in graphics, design and multimedia production.

Mellander has renovated many older properties in downtown Champaign, including the buildings housing Radio Maria, Rick Orr, Carmon’s, Bacaro, Jennifer North and Precision Graphics itself.

Patrick Walsh

Walsh, a member of Engineers without Borders at the UI, recently won a Mondialogo Engineering Award for his work in developing solar-powered LED lanterns to replace kerosene lanterns in the developing world. The Mondialogo awards are given by a partnership between UNESCO and DaimlerChrysler.

Over the long term, it’s estimated the solar-powered lanterns could save 60 percent of an off-grid poor family’s lighting budget. Walsh’s team received a grant from the Environmental Protection Agency to produce 100 prototypes of the lantern for distribution in India.

Kirk Dauksavage

Dauksavage heads RiverGlass, which commercialized technology from the National Center for Supercomputing Applications to enable government agencies and companies to better use Internet data strategically. The company employs 35, most of them in the UI Research Park.

Country Companies has been a customer and investor, and RiverGlass has worked closely with the Illinois State Police. Three of Dauksavage’s colleagues accepted the award on his behalf.

Rob Schultz

Schultz evaluates investment opportunities for IllinoisVentures, manages its Champaign office and works with early-stage companies on strategy, operations, finance and business development. He has championed partnerships between the UI’s Technology Entrepreneur Center and IllinoisVentures.

Alan Singleton

Singleton was an early volunteer with techCommUnity and chaired its mentoring program for several years. He has been a mentor, coach, workshop lecturer and judge for the V. Dale Cozad Business Plan Competition and has been an active member of Second Saturdays, a group of people offering advice to local entrepreneurs writing or seeking to implement a business plan.

He has put together legal workshops for entrepreneurs and made legal and business information available to the public. He was described as “principled, consummately professional, generous and cognizant of the larger picture.”

Madhu Viswanathan

Viswanathan’s research focuses on literacy, poverty and marketplace behavior. He is director of the Marketplace Literacy Project, which aims to improve practices of businesses, policymakers and educators in serving the needs of low-literate consumers. In the United States, the project aims to disseminate educational materials to improve marketplace literacy among low-literate, low-income individuals.

The project has come up with a five-day educational program for would-be entrepreneurs in India, and Viswanathan has written a soon-to-be-released book on enabling consumer and entrepreneurial literacy in subsistence marketplaces.

UI units sponsoring the event included the Academy for Entrepreneurial Leadership, the Technology Entrepreneur Center, EnterpriseWorks and the Office of the Vice Chancellor of Research. This was the third year for the awards.