By Rex Smitherman
Copyright © 2013, The Oklahoma Publishing Company
As a chemist and professor at Oklahoma State University, Allen Apblett, Ph.D., spends a lot of time in the laboratory searching for answers to questions that have yet to be asked.
“A lot of the discoveries I’ve made have been serendipitous,” Apblett said. “You make something new and you say, ‘Oh, what would this be good for?’”
Apblett owns numerous patents, and his discoveries are the basis of several companies spun out of OSU. The latest is a polymer that absorbs large quantities of arsenic and phosphate, which became the foundation of a new company called Associated Material Processing (AMP).
“We’ve increased the capacity for absorption of arsenic by about 10-fold,” he said. “We filed an invention disclosure and transitioned from that to Cowboy Technologies, which did all the really hard work of developing a company.”
Cowboy Technologies LLC, is an investment fund and startup company development entity created by OSU to help take new technologies discovered on campus into the marketplace. Steve Wood is CEO.
“Our purpose is to be a very early embryonic seed investor and accelerate the technology to commercialization” Wood said.
Cowboy Technologies invested $100,000 in proof-of-concept funding for AMP, which subsequently received $125,000 in funding from the i2E-managed Oklahoma Seed Capital Fund, along with investment from members of i2E’s SeedStep Angels group.
Armed with fresh funding and a promising technology developed in Apblett’s OSU laboratory, AMP identified a market and developed strategies to secure customers for which it could solve a big problem.
“Right now we’re focusing on more concentrated forms of arsenic, particularly those produced by the semiconductor industry as they process gallium arsenide,” Apblett said. “They produce large, large quantities of arsenic that currently they are land-filling. What we want to do is capture that and recycle it.”
AMP is quickly advancing toward a receptive marketplace.
“Even with a small market penetration into that recovery and abatement process, we would be employing dozens of people within a few years,” Wood said.
The process of creating AMP from a discovery in an OSU laboratory, providing seed capital and identifying potential customers could serve as a template for other technologies emerging from campuses across Oklahoma.
In fact, what if there were a collaborative process whose sole purpose was to work with the state’s research institutions to further evaluate their technologies and work to accelerate them to the marketplace? i2E and others are working to create such a collaboration.
Rex Smitherman is interim president and CEO of i2E Inc., a nonprofit corporation that mentors many of the state’s technology-based startup companies. i2E receives state appropriations from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology. Contact Smitherman at [email protected].
DID YOU KNOW? The top 11 academic institutions nationwide bring in half of the total money for technology transfer. Source: Association of University Technology Managers