Purdue, USI strengthen resources

For a few years now, Purdue and the university have collaborated with Crane Naval Base to bring new startups to the area.

“Part of this initiative involves Purdue taking over 130 Crane innovations and running them through their MBA students,” said Daniela Vidal, director for the Center of Applied Research/Economic Development. “It’s a way to get Crane in a more usable format and out into the world.”

USI facilitated the four sessions that mapped and catalogued the resources used by the startups and received funding to allow the startups to start prototyping ideas and innovations.

“We were specifically looking at that region of southwest Indiana. Crane just happened to be the biggest employer in that region,” said Cliff Wojtalewicz, managing director for the Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship at Purdue.

Purdue brings its company startup expertise to the collaboration. They conducted the partnership intermediary agreement with Crane on this more than a year ago.

The agreement allows Purdue to market Crane created technologies such as warhead sensors, anti-tampering in electronics and specialized military equipment. The agreement also allows students there to do anything from market analysis to business-canvas modeling.

“USI was actively involved with Crane (and) we were actively involved in Crane, so it was just a natural attraction to get together,” Wojtalewicz said. “There’s no other university that I know of that are spending the time and energy at Crane like Purdue and USI.”

Crane is one of the two Department of Defense Laboratories in Indiana and conducts a majority of the research and innovations such as special gear for soldiers and microelectronics for strategic missions. Wojtalewicz said this project looks to tap into the creations that are produced there and help the region.

“There is a lot of that kind of technology coming out of Crane and various other places and we just wanted to assist them in any way we could,” Wojtalewicz said.

Many of the people USI worked with at Crane have gone to work for the Indiana Office of Defense Development. This office looks for ways to adapt military technology for community market use.

The Indiana Office of Defense Development provided the funding and Purdue coordinated the necessary efforts such as mapping the startups out of various minors here at USI.

“At the end of the day, the goal is to build and grow this innovation ecosystem so we can generate more jobs and economic growth because of these technology-based startups,” Vidal said.

One recommendation to the project was to designate an overall coordinator to help these startups build and grow, as well as a web tool to monitor progress.

The project needed a central coordinator to assist these startups.

As the project moves forward, the Indiana University Law School is becoming a partner as well, allowing the collaboration to utilize their intellectual law clinic at no cost.

Starting in December, the collaboration will have open hours at WestGate, a technology park for innovators, that is open to the public from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m on the second Tuesday of each month. These open hours allow people to connect and meet some of the businesses this collaboration will use.

“This is a long term vision, but this initial project was to understand what’s available, what are the gaps and what we can do to strengthen the resources available,” Vidal said.

Most initiatives come out of the university’s entrepreneurship program.

Vidal said in the past there was not much that the university could do to help these ideas move forward. Now, a program titled Eagle Innovation Accelerator has been founded to help students and community members pursue their entrepreneurship goals and guide them through the process.

“There’s a lot of different things that need to happen,” Vidal said, “but that’s what we’re trying to build is that expertise in this region of investors, mentors, business people and entrepreneurs that can come together and make it happen.”