Ventures > Centers of Excellence
The Center for Laser-Based Manufacturing represents perhaps the 'cleanest' example of a purely service-oriented academic Center of Excellence. This Center solves manufacturing problems for a wide range of participants. In return, the Center receives funds to expand its facilities and capabilities.
Awards in the area of Computer-Aided Tooling simultaneously created capacity within Purdue University and a private sector company, Imagenistics, capable of commercializing these computational tools. This required two well-matched entrepreneurs, Karthik Ramani (Purdue) and Nainesh Rathod (Imagenistics). Together, they sustained the academic evolution of the underlying shape search and representation technologies, and provided an aggressive commercial interface to customers.
Dr. Hutchins' IN Center of Excellence in Biomedical Imaging was initially created to provide access across Indiana to highly specialized PET imaging reagents. This Center involved creating a network of reagent distribution organizations and a centralized reagent synthesis facility. In addition, Dr. Hutchins unified and greatly expanded the IUSOM's human and animal imaging capabilities. A second Center award, specifically addressing the imaging needs of the IUSOM's rapidly expanding neuroscience research and clinical groups, further leveraged the infrastructure created by Dr. Hutchins. Indeed, these foundational awards have now led to creation of a large-scale IU-Clarian Neurosciences facility on the Methodist Hospital campus. This is an example of the large-scale development possible through 'internal' growth within academic institutions. Scaling occurs in these cases by virtue of the 'commercial' context of human clinical activities.
The Novel MEMS-Based Microscale Cooling awards have brought together entrepreneurial visionaries from the academic (Garimella, Purdue) and commercial (Myers, Delphi) sectors. While working closely with Delphi, Dr. Garimella also expanded Purdue's microscale thermal management capacity by establishing an NSF Cooling Technologies Research Center, which itself now engages with a wide range of academic institutions and major companies, who provide support as well as challenging technical problems. It clearly required entrepreneurial actors from both Purdue and Delphi to spark this intriguingly successful 'business model'.
The explicit commercial focus of the Scientific Instrumentation Center was implemented by Dr. Graham Cooks (Purdue University) by bringing together some of the best analytical chemists in the country (thus assuring continuing generation of new technologies) and by spinning off companies, generally in the person of his students. In addition, Dr. Cooks created entirely new commercialization approaches, most notably the arrangement with the Purdue Research Foundation allowing Dr. Cooks and his students to build within Purdue University and sell at cost prototypes of new mass spectrometers. The rationale in this case is that the experience of these beta users will stimulate design improvements and demand for these new instruments, leading to the founding of further new companies. In sum, Dr. Cooks' entrepreneurial spirit is evident in BOTH his technical research, and in his approaches to business development.
The Center for Computational Diagnostics was created with the narrow goal of developing the high-throughput analytical capacity to assess the molecular determinants of cardiovascular disease. Instead, the resulting informatics and sample curation tools created by the Center have now been applied to a range of human diseases, and now involve a global network of medical institutions.
The Center for Nanoscale/Biological Devices arose from the vision of two Purdue faculty members, Supriyo Datta and Mark Lundstrom. Both are highly respected in the computational nanosciences community. A total investment of $3,507,237 by the 21 Fund provided key infrastructure ultimately leading to creation of the Birck Nanotechnology Center (a major multidisciplinary nanoscience facility used by both Purdue faculty and commercial users) and to establishment of the NSF Network for Computational Nanotechnology. At Purdue, the underlying supportive informatics tools of the nanoHUB have been expanded to a much broader set of technology areas (HUBs). These Center awards have significantly advanced nanoscience and nanotechnology at Purdue, and have provided essential support to Indiana's rapidly growing nanotechnology community (also supported by direct 21 Fund awards to companies such as Indiana Nanotech and Nanovis). This aggressive development within the academic community has resulted from the enlightened self-interest of two extraordinary technologists.
The Propulsion and Power Center arose from the vision of Lynn Snyder (Rolls-Royce LibertyWorks) and involves a large company (Rolls-Royce), a major academic engineering institution (Purdue University), and several smaller companies. Renovation and expansion of the Zucrow Laboratory at Purdue resulted in an engine evaluation capability essential for Rolls-Royce acquisition of federal awards for development of advanced propulsion systems. Smaller companies, most notably InSpace, were able to win federal SBIR Phase I and II awards based on their access to these test facilities. In addition to attraction of federal funds, the Zucrow Laboratory induced internal expansion within the global Rolls-Royce organization, which provided funding for an advanced propulsion technology center at Purdue.The Zucrow Laboratory supports a range of business models. It provides cost effective test capability to several private sector companies. It also trains the future aerospace workforce for this sector in Indiana. And finally, it provides essential infrastructure supporting the Purdue and IUPUI aerospace academic sector. Locating this set of activities in a common locus (the Zucrow Laboratory) provides the essential mixing of people and ideas that effectively transfer technology from the academic sector into commercial practice. While ongoing projects are financed as sponsored research contracts and grants, and some costs (for instance, the high pressure air supply) are provided a typical university facility expenses, Purdue does not set aside funds for refurbishment/replacement of high value assets associated with the Laboratory. Considering the importance of the Zucrow facility, its financial base is relatively unstable. In sum, the internal entrepreneurial activities of a commercial sector actor have had broad and continuing consequences for an emerging commercial sector in Indiana as well as for a major department at Purdue University.