Reprinted with permission of the Rochester Business Journal.
VOLUME 28, NUMBER 8 WWW.RBJDAILY.COM MAY 18, 2012
By SMRITI JACOB
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 oten arelatively small amount o money.So Totterman and seven others—includ-ing Alexander Zapesochny, president and chie operating ofcer 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 $15,000or 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 identiy 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.
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 dierence, 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 suer rom autism otenare not toilet trained by their school yearsor beyond. Factors such as communicationdefcits, sensory and motor dierences, anx-iety and skill-building problems contributeto making this task a challenge.The product and curriculum, developed byDaniel Mruzek, assistant proessor o pedi-atrics at UR’s medical center, and StephenMcAleavey, associate proessor 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 reinorcement.“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 platorm worked. “The nature o this project, where it’s at in development, itdoesn’t really lend itsel to the procuremento large grants.”UR ofcials 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 transer.
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 ofcially 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 comerom aculty, graduate students and under-graduates. A university’s technology trans-er ofce 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 identiya 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