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MSU debuts Investing in Innovation Conference

February 20, 2012

By STEVEN NALLEY

The program for Mississippi State University’s Investing In Innovation Conference is laced with references to the Bulldogs’ basketball season.
Donna Collier, MSU technology licensing coordinator, is one of the event’s organizers, and she said the theme fit too well to not use. As a result, the event begins with the Tip-Off Luncheon and ends with the Wine and Cheese Net-Working Social. One breakout session about partnering with industries is titled “MSU Gets the Assist;” another session about getting technology on the market is titled “How to Make it to the Big Dance.”
“It was really a group effort,” Collier said. “Things just kept popping out of people’s mouths. We had to work ... to pull it all together.”
The Hunter Henry Center will host MSU’s first Investing in Innovation Conference at 11 a.m. Tuesday, recognizing new patent holders and showcasing new intellectual properties.
Collier said while the luncheon had a registration deadline of Feb. 14, other elements of the event, including breakout sessions, are free and open to the public.
“We’re looking forward to an exciting day and really showcasing all our technologies and entrepreneurs (and) our student (and) faculty startup companies,” Collier said.
Gerald Nelson, director of the Office of Entrepreneurship and Technology Transfer, said the Investing in Innovation Conference, also known as I3 Day, is the first of its kind. Previously, he said, there was a semi-annual luncheon to recognize new patent recipients, but when MSU merged the Office of Technology Commercialization with the Office of Entrepreneurship and Technology Transfer to create his current department, the staff decided the patent luncheon should also incorporate other elements.
“We decided to make a bigger event ... to recognize new patent awardees, technology spinouts and other innovative technology available for license,” Nelson said. “I3 Day will showcase Mississippi State’s partnerships with the private sector, and provide opportunities for participants to explore the resources and services we provide to existing businesses, startup companies and entrepreneurs. We hope to do this as an annual event.”
Partnerships and services to be showcased include several law firms who serve as private sector advisors, Nelson said, as well as partner sponsors who license technologies.
“Harrelson and Associates, which owns Marks White Energy LLC, is a partner sponsor who has licensed an environmentally friendly technology that converts... bags of garbage into fuel for heating and vehicular use,” Nelson said. “Camgian Microsystems will be on display in the showcase, along with several ... MSU technologies that are either licensed or available to be licensed.”
Guest speakers for I3 panels include Visual Analytic Solutions founder Jamie Dyer, Camgian Microsystems founder Gary Butler, and SemiSouth Laboratories co-founder Mike Mazzola. Several intellectual properties will also be showcased throughout the day, Nelson said, and Innovation Awards will be given for student and faculty startups, as well as the Innovator of the Year.
“Our featured intellectual property includes our cutting-edge research in biodiesel as well as grasses and plants developed here at MSU,” Nelson said, “along with disease prevention technology and many others.”
Finally, Nelson said I3 Day will feature an elevator pitch competition, where students are challenged to pitch business ideas to judges in the time it would take to ride up an elevator. He said students will compete not only for a $1,000 grand prize but also for a trip to the National Collegiate Entrepreneurs Organization competition in Tampa this March.
“The elevator pitch competition will be a highlight of the day,” Nelson said. “The MSU Entrepreneurship Center sent a competitor in fall 2011, Jesus Valdez, and he placed fifth nationally out of 175 major colleges and universities competing in Fort Worth, Texas. We plan to win again this year and have 12 student start-ups competing for this level. We also will send some of these to the Mississippi Technology Alliance Business Plan Competition in May of this year. MSU won first, second and third in the student division last year.”

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