Posted at 3:28 PM
Dr. Michael Curry is a man of many titles. Navy Veteran. Associate Professor of Chemistry at Tuskegee University. Senior Scientific Investigator for the NSF Funded Center for Sustainable Nanotechnology.
Last month in Philadelphia, Dr. Curry – along with his research assistant Donald H. White – added a new designation to his list: Invited Guest of the Minority Business Development Agency. Dr. Curry, alongside fellow entrepreneurs Ailsa Gilliam and Angella Preston, among others, joined MBDA officials at the Federal Laboratory Consortium for Technology Transfer (FLC) national meeting as part of the Agency’s Technology Transfer & Commercialization Program, known as I3, which stands for Imagine. Invent. Incorporate.
FLC is the formally chartered, nationwide network of over 300 federal laboratories, agencies, and research centers that foster commercialization best practice strategies and opportunities for accelerating federal technologies from out of the labs and into the marketplace.
Held annually, the FLC national meeting provides an opportunity for attendees to learn more about the technology transfer (T2) process – the process by which tech developed in federal labs moves into the marketplace – and hear from some of the most forward-thinking minds in the T2 space.
In past years at the FLC national meeting, MBDA held panels that highlighted MBEs that could potentially partner with federal labs, and the unique contribution minority- and women-owned companies bring to the innovation conversation.
“As a researcher who loves to be in the lab, it’s often difficult when I stumble upon research with market viability,” Dr. Curry said. “But after launching Eco-friendly Plastic Materials – a research and development startup company with the mission of providing cost-effective, environmentally friendly plastic products for industry – I realized the importance of partnering with entities such as federal labs to take my love for research and development to the next level.”
Added Ailsa Gilliam: “The in-person experience was invaluable but it’s amazing how easy it is to access the various lab technologies, resources, funding and more by simply utilizing the FLC Business search engine.”
Gilliam has spent most of her 20-plus-year career in global investment banking technology and effecting process change. But in 2017, while pursuing a master’s in international relations through Harvard University’s Extension School, she and her classmate Angella Preston began a collaboration to develop, manufacture and market a video game that equips teen girls with the insights to prevent domestic violence.
“Our end goal was always to teach the warning signs of abuse, overcome the cultural roles that leave women vulnerable, and re-enforce the rights of girls and women to safety, respect, and equality,” Gilliam said. “But the last place we expected to find ways to overcome our technology needs, and also stumble upon additional audiences, applications and uses for the video game, was at the FLC conference.”
The theme at this year’s conference, “Celebrating American Innovation,” was particularly relevant to MBDA and the I3. MBEs are underrepresented in the innovation economy and the FLC meetings serve a wonderful platform and opportunity to promote greater inclusion through education and partnerships with federal labs.
“It is no secret that the R&D chasm is where most great ideas are lost, but there is something to be said about looking for breakthroughs in unlikely places,” said Julius Valentine Maina, MBDA’s Policy & Inclusive Innovation Specialist. “MBDA strives to demystify the commercialization process and highlight the various resources available within the federal government. This is one of the most interesting conferences that nobody knows about and we are thankful to the FLC board and Ad-Hoc Diversity Committee Chairperson, Janeya Griffin, for advocating for greater participation from minority entrepreneurs and inventors in the FLC conferences,” said Julius Valentine Maina, MBDA Policy, and Inclusive Innovation Specialist.
“The end goal of these partnerships is to demystify the commercialization process and highlight the various resources available within the federal government. It really is one of the most interesting conferences that nobody knows about and we are thankful to both the FLC board and the Ad-Hoc Diversity Committee Chairperson, Janeya Griffin, for always championing and advocating for MBDA’s continual presence at the conference.”
Griffin, a two-time graduate of Grambling State University, is currently a technology transfer specialist and licensing manager for NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center. In addition to serving on the FLC Executive Board as the Member at Large, she also taught the “Technology Transfer for Beginners” course at this year's national meeting.
The MBDA Business Center of Pennsylvania is the region’s leader in minority business development and has generated more than $290 million contracts and financing, as well as created hundreds of jobs since 2004. These contracts represent significant business activity for minority-owned firms in the Greater Philadelphia region.
For more information about the Federal Lab Consortium for Technology Transfer, visit FederalLabs.org.
For more information about the Minority Business Development Agency, visit MBDA.gov.