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Innovocracy in RBJ 05.18.12

Innovocracy in RBJ 05.18.12

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Published by Julian Baldwin

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Published by: Julian Baldwin on Jun 01, 2012
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 Reprinted with permission of the Rochester Business Journal.
Mikael Totterman and his team believethey can hatch big breakthroughs by think-ing small.Totterman and a group o local entre- preneurs have ounded Innovocracy Ltd.to connect inventors with unding, helpthem get to the next phase o development,a step closer to the marketplace, and per-haps build a base or a business.“This is something that has been per-
colating as a challenge in the back o our minds probably or about our or fve yearsnow,” said Totterman, chairman o Innovoc-racy and CEO o iCardiac Technologies Inc.
Innovations at universities do not al-ways come to ruition as products in themarketplace, he added, because ederalagencies traditionally do not fnance com-mercialization as much as they fnance ba-sic research. The gap between work in thelaboratory and a real product is oten arelatively small amount o money.So Totterman and seven others—includ-ing Alexander Zapesochny, president and chie operating ofcer o iCardiac; RalphDandrea, chairman and CEO o ITX Corp.,Martin Edic, CEO o 24PageBooks Inc.,and Richard Glaser, a ormer investment banker—decided to help fll the gap.Based on a crowd unding model, Inno-vocracy lets individuals, who can chooseto be anonymous, donate as much as theywant toward a particular project in areassuch as health care, sustainability and al-ternative energy. I, or any reason, a proj-ect ails to reach its unding goal, donorsare not charged or their pledges.For initial projects, Innovocracy plansto raise $3,000 to no more than $15,000or each idea.Currently a non-proft but with paper-work fled to become one o the state’searliest beneft corporations, Innovocracyaims to work with universities in the regionand beyond to identiy ideas that need helpgetting to the marketplace. The donationsare not tax-deductible now, but Innovoc-racy is working with academic institutionsto make them so, Totterman said.
Pilot project
The group’s frst launch partner was theUniversity o Rochester. Innovocracy raised money to und the development and test-ing o a toilet-training device or autisticchildren and those with developmental dis-abilities. The minimum goal was to raise$5,500. As o midweek, the project had raised $9,452 rom 53 sponsors. It is ex- pected to cap at $10,500 and close on June 5.“A very targeted number o dollars canget a bunch o prototypes made better thanthe previous version, get that product in thehands o caregivers and children to make anactual dierence, Totterman said. “So themoney that goes into that, that is a donation,it is entirely charitable with the objective o something signifcant being done.”Children who suer rom autism otenare not toilet trained by their school yearsor beyond. Factors such as communicationdefcits, sensory and motor dierences, anx-iety and skill-building problems contributeto making this task a challenge.The product and curriculum, developed byDaniel Mruzek, assistant proessor o pedi-atrics at UR’s medical center, and StephenMcAleavey, associate proessor o biomedi-cal engineering at UR, aim to help a child use the toilet in a relaxed manner.A disposable sensor fts inside the child’sunderwear. The frst ew drops o urine ac-tivate a sensor, which emits a message toa pager that indicates to both the child and the parent or teacher that a simple training procedure should commence. The processis based on positive reinorcement.“I’ve had this opportunity through Inno-vocracy to generate money that allows meto urther refne the technology, urther re-fne the corresponding curriculum and pilotit out a bit more with children with autismand developmental disabilities,” said Mru-zek, who is impressed by how well the In-novocracy platorm worked. “The nature o this project, where it’s at in development, itdoesn’t really lend itsel to the procuremento large grants.”UR ofcials are excited about the oppor-tunity to garner unding or projects suchas Mruzek’s, which may not receive largesums rom ederal agencies.“Sometimes it’s hard or us as a not-or- proft institution to fnd that money, but i we can get some interest in people who havea philanthropic urge to help out in certainareas that are o interest to them and we canharness the energy and interest o all those people aggregating small contributions,that’s pretty exciting,” said Gail Norris,UR’s vice provost o technology transer.
Attracting interest
 Norris is not the only one who has bought into the idea. Innovocracy hassigned three other institutions as launch partners: Rochester Institute o Technol-ogy, Cornell University and Clarkson Uni-versity. The organization, which is still itin its beta orm, hopes to have a total o eight launch partners.It also is in preliminary talks with insti-tutions in the London area and Israel. Inno-vocracy expects to launch ofcially in thelate summer or early all with one to two projects rom each o its launch partners.“The key consideration really at this point is whether the institution is a likelyhigh source o really innovative, interest-ing technology, they’re addressing unda-mental issues,” said Zapesochny, executivedirector o Innovocracy.The innovations, he said, could comerom aculty, graduate students and under-graduates. A university’s technology trans-er ofce picks a ew o the top ideas, and the team at Innovocracy, which also hasexperts rom New York City and the WestCoast helping out, screens them to identiya couple o high-impact ideas, zeroing inon a lead project. Universities spread theword through competitions and meetingsthat showcase new technologies.“We’re trying to making sure we providelegitimate, good eedback to the teams onhow they can make their project better or 
Firm targets raising funds for inventors

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