UVU Technology Commercialization Office Helps Ready Three New Inventions For Utah Innovators Showcase
April 29, 2013
For Immediate Release
University Marketing & Communications: Mike Rigert
Written by: Heather Wrigley
On May 7, Utah Valley University representatives and affiliates will pitch three new technologies — a cool-handle Dutch oven, a molten salt reactor and a cancer detection system — to potential business partners at the Utah Innovators Showcase in Salt Lake City, in hopes of securing funding and other support from investors.
Each of the technologies has been conceived and/or developed at UVU, with assistance from the Technology Commercialization Office, or TCO, newly created in 2011 to help connect local inventors and entrepreneurs with opportunities to create a dynamic technology-focused marketplace in the region.
“What we’re really after is some knowledge,” said Kent Millington, UVU director of technology commercialization. “We would like to know what the investment community thinks of these technologies. We want to begin to make people aware of UVU and its technology program.”
Millington and the Technology Commercialization Office at UVU have embraced partnering with individuals and businesses outside the university community and have worked with a wide range of products. Two technologies that UVU’s TCO currently have as assignments include a cool-handle Dutch oven and a molten salt reactor, both of which will be shown at the showcase.
The cool-handle Dutch oven has a handle that can be removed and slots that lock the lid onto the pot, to guard against burning and improve the oven’s stability. UVU instructor and former UVU student John Gilbert has successfully tested the new design in his Dutch oven cooking course and will present the invention at the showcase.
The other invention that UVU holds under commercialization is a new design for a molten salt reactor, an alternative to light water reactors such as those seen in the Fukushima and Three Mile Island disasters. Inventor Sheldon Hansen from Herriman, Utah, will pitch the product at the showcase. Technology Commercialization Offices at both UVU and the University of Utah have collaborated on designs for the reactor.
“Working with the TCOs at UVU and the U of U. has been great, for it’s truly a technological collaboration,” Hansen said. “I have been so impressed with UVU’s personal, aggressive approach in taking technologies from incubation to commercialization. It’s not just collaboration. It’s acceleration.”
Theoretically, Hansen’s thorium-based reactor would work more efficiently and produce far less radioactive leftovers, with waste products carrying a half-life of 300 years, as opposed to 10,000 years, typical for a light water reactor. Additionally, the materials used would make it impossible to upgrade to weapons-grade plutonium, another downside to light water reactors.
“By our estimation, five, 8-foot-cubed molten salt reactors could generate all the electricity currently used in the state of Utah,” Millington said. “The investment would be about one-one hundredth of traditional nuclear power plants. It would change how electricity is produced and consumed.”
Tim Doyle has also benefitted from partnering with the TCOs at UVU and the University of Utah, which has identified new funding sources, helped to protect the technology’s intellectual property and worked to further develop the technology for the marketplace.
An assistant professor of physics at UVU, Doyle is the lead inventor of SonoMargin, a cancer detection device. Each year, 145,000 women in the U.S. alone undergo lumpectomies for breast cancer. Traditionally, the removed tissue is sent to a lab, where it is analyzed to make sure all the cancer was removed. In one-third of cases, the patient has to have more tissue removed through follow-up surgeries. SonoMargin would allow doctors to scan the tissue immediately after removing it, to ascertain if all the cancer was removed, thereby making multiple surgeries unnecessary.
“I want to get the word out about this technology and about UVU’s involvement,” Doyle said. “We have a wide medical technology community here in Utah, and I think they’ll see that UVU is at the forefront of developing medical technology. I want to showcase my technology, but I also want to promote UVU and student research here.”
Assisting local businesses strengthen the region’s economy is a large part of UVU’s Business Engagement Strategy, championed by President Matthew S. Holland. The January 2012 launch of UVU’s Business Resource Center, wherein the Technology Commercialization Office is housed, is part of that effort.
“We’ve only been here for two years,” Millington said. “But we’ve learned from our colleagues at the University of Utah and BYU. They’ve been very generous with their time and suggestions, and we’re slowly getting the word out to faculty, students and the community that the Technology Commercialization Office exists, and if they’ve got a new idea, we can help them think it through, see if their idea has commercial potential.”