The NC State Office of Research Commercialization (ORC) led by Wade Fulghum in collaboration with KIETS has established a formalized support process called the Spark Plug Initiative that will help NC State researchers and startups to maximize their potential for success on SBIR/STTR proposals. In 2022, ORC continued a partnership with the First Flight Venture Center (FFVC) and their Liftoff, FAST, and Propeller Programs. The goal of these programs is to increase university startup’s chances of winning non-dilutive grant funding from the Federal SBIR/STTR Programs.
The Spark Plug Program has funded four companies in 2022 and two companies in 2023 including the following:
- Teen Health Research: Developing an app for parents of 10 to 13-year-old children who struggle to talk openly with their children about bodies, sexuality, and relationships. KIETS Associate Director Raj Narayan served as an instructor for this company through the NC State ICorps program.
- Cosmic Eats: Developing plant, fungal, and algal food production modules combined into one multi-modular system for manufacturing foods. Cosmic Eats was awarded a Department of Defense Phase II SBIR in the amount of $2,815,086. KIETS Associate Director Raj Narayan served as an instructor for this company through the NC State ICorps program.
- MyoMech: Developing new wearable ultrasound sensors will provide a clear view of their muscles, to optimize long-term recovery and assistance.
- NewCo: Advancing the novel Autonomous Inducible Directed Evolution (AIDE) platform technology. AIDE allows generation of bacteria harboring tailor-made phenotypes that can address customer-specific unmet needs in the animal and human health space.
- Redeem Solar Technologies: Developing hydrogen storage technology for long-term storage and economic H2 transporting in liquid, while eliminating the need for high-pressure storage or expensive materials
- Nicelle Technologies: Upcycling acrylic with lignin for creation of fiber products for faux hair and other fiber markets.
Since its launch in late 2019, the Spark Plug program has funded 14 NC State startups that have gone on to generate over $3.6 million in SBIR/STTR funding.