Phigenics Plus U of A Equals Innovative Collaboration With National Science Foundation

The National Science Foundation recently announced that a University of Arkansas research team was selected to participate in the national Innovation Corps (I-Corps) program with technology developed by the university that detects potential issues with drinking water before trouble strikes.

The U of A team of Julian Fairey, principal investigator/technical lead and associate professor of civil engineering, and Thien Do, entrepreneurial lead and research associate in civil engineering, has partnered with Phigenics LLC. William "Bill" McCoy, co-founder and chief technology officer of Phigenics, and Missy Cain, vice president of technology, will serve as industry mentors. The team will receive a $50,000 grant to support lab-to-market-related work and to participate in the intensive seven-week curriculum led by the NSF I-Corps South Node.

NSF I-Corps program serves as a first step in the commercialization process to help teams explore if a commercial opportunity exists for their research or a personal pathway forward.

The core technology the team is exploring for commercialization was developed from Fairey's prior projects that include two NSF research grants and two grants from the Water Research Foundation. The proposed project will yield positive broader impacts by enabling customers to gather real-time fluorescence measurements in drinking water systems that previously became elevated in the days prior to the onset of a nitrification event, which degrades water quality.  The technology consists of fluorescence sensor system and data-processing algorithm to compare fluorescence signals to a baseline threshold established during a healthy period of operation.  Such data would fill a critical gap and facilitate proactive remedial action prior to deterioration of drinking water quality.

According to the NSF website, "The I-Corps Curriculum is not about how to write a research paper, business plan or NSF proposal. The result is not a publication or a deck of slides or even a scientific discovery. Instead, the entire I-Corps Team will be engaged with industry; talking to customers, partners and competitors; and encountering the uncertainty and excitement of creating successful innovations. Getting [researchers] out of their comfort zone to explore commercial potential is what the effort is about."

Upon completion of the I-Corps program, the research team will apply for additional funding from the Gap Fund. A subset of the Chancellor's Fund, the Gap Fund provides support for University of Arkansas researchers trying to launch start-up companies based on their discoveries or inventions. The Chancellor's Fund was made possible by a $23.7 million gift from the Walton Family Charitable Support Foundation. To receive support from the Gap Fund, researchers must first complete the national I-Corps grogram.

Future NSF National I-Corps dates

Interested in being a part of an NSF national I-Corps program? See below the dates for upcoming virtual programs hosted by NSF!

SPRING 2022 COHORTS

Spring 2022 cohorts will be held virtually. No travel is expected. Please plan to conduct interviews by phone or video conference. NSF will update the I-Corps cohort participants with more information. All times listed are Eastern Time.

Spring Cohort No. 1 — Hosted by the Southwest Regional I-Corps Node Program
Kickoff (online): March 14-17 (1 p.m. start on March 14)
Weekly Sessions (online): Wednesdays 1-4 p.m. March 23, 30; April 6, 13, 20
Lessons Learned (online): April 25 - 26 (noon start on April 25)

Spring Cohort No. 2 — Hosted by the Mid-Atlantic Regional I-Corps Hub Program
Kickoff (online): April 4-7 (1 pm start on April 4)
Weekly Sessions (online): Thursdays 1-4 p.m. April 14, 21, 28; May 5, 12
Lessons Learned (online): May 19-20 (noon start on May 19)

Spring Cohort No. 3 — Hosted by the Bay Area Regional I-Corps Node Program
Kickoff (online): April 25-28 (1 p.m. start on April 25)
Weekly Sessions (online): Wednesday 1-4 p.m. May 4; Tuesdays, May 10, 17, 24, 31
Lessons Learned (online): June 6-7 (noon start on June 6)

Spring Cohort No. 4 — Hosted by the New England Regional I-Corps Node Program
Kickoff (online): May 16-19 (1 p.m. start on May 16)
Weekly Sessions (online): Wednesdays 1-4 p.m. May 25; June, 1, 8, 15, 22
Lessons Learned (online): June 27-28 (noon start on June 27)

About Phigenics: Phigenics provides water management programs and services to improve the safety and optimize the efficiency of commercial water systems. Phigenics is committed to helping facility managers and owners prevent disease resulting from waterborne pathogens and manage the world's most precious resource. Phigenics has clients in all 50 states that range from Walmart to Veterans Health Administration and plans to hire new team members for its Fayetteville location at the Arkansas Technology Research Park. This will create a significant new opportunity for graduate students in the STEM fields. Phigenics was also recently awarded as one of the best places to work by Arkansas Business with Phigenics winning formula balancing both family and fun into a winning formula for its employees.

 
Contacts

Weston Waldo, venture development program manager
Division of Economic Development
479-575-5606, waldo@uark.edu

Andy Albertson, senior director of communications
Research and Economic Development
479-575-6111, aalbert@uark.edu

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