For those looking to start a high-tech venture in Maryland there are plenty of resources and opportunity to help them succeed.
“We have great public and private universities and federal agencies full of technology for licensing,” James Hughes, Director of UM Ventures, says, “The state of Maryland (government) is very aggressive in supporting startup companies. And, the Biotech Investment Tax Credit is I think the best in the country, giving investors a 50 percent tax credit of the amount of their investment, making it much easier for biotech companies to attract funding.”
Hughes is also the vice president and chief enterprise and economic development officer at the University of Maryland, Baltimore.
Under Hughes, UM Ventures is one of several academic commercializing routes for inventors or investors to start or join a small technology business. Entrepreneurs may also choose to launch a company through the nurturing advice and training at the state’s Small Business Development Center, part of a national SBDC network. Still others may emerge from one of a growing number of state and county business accelerator or incubator programs with a startup business.
The scale of ambition or target markets doesn’t matter. Consultants are readily available at low cost in all corners of Maryland as long as you can sell your technology invention or idea for a company.
Systems engineer Christopher Mennan at the University of Maryland School of Medicine felt the full potential of UM Ventures. About eight years ago, he and his team of four computer geeks were working in a large attic room in a small brick building two blocks from the university’s hospital in downtown Baltimore. He told Phillip Robilotto, assistant vice president of technology transfer at the university, they had invented innovative information technology “tools to provide a more global view,” which will connect all hospital systems and thus “surely help take better care of patients.”
On November 24, 2017, Amsterdam-based Royal Phillips, a leading health technology company, purchased Mennan’s start-up firm he co-founded, Analytical Informatics.
UM Ventures had helped Mennan secure the license agreements that made AI’s launch possible. The team quickly drove the company from concept to commercialization, acquiring funding and customers along the way.
Consultants with the state’s Small Business Development Center are available in every county and three in Baltimore City. Like UM Venture’s licensing agents, SBDC consultants get inventors and entrepreneurs in touch with all training and commercializing resources for each step in forming and growing a small technology company.
SBDC consultants were there for inventor, innovator and self-described day-dreamer Brian Jordan of Jordan Research and Development, LLC of Hollywood, Md., in regard to a home accident when he lost some fingers.
Jordan invented the DigiTouch Prosthetic Finger to gain use of his lost fingers with the help of the SBDC, and then established a nonprofit organization, Robiotech Corp. to raise awareness and working solutions for digital amputees.
“Having an innovation-based business, the SBDC is a key asset when it comes to helping streamline product development,” says Jordan. “Even though we are a small company, it is like having a large executive board to help get your products to the next level.”
As with Mennan’s IT tools, Brian’s invention of a DigiTouch Prosthetic Finger has gained much wider applications. SBDC consultant Linda Craven helped establish a business plan, marketing research, and more. She connected him with Ralph Blakeney, the manager of the small business center technology commercialization program to discuss the invention. Blakeney connected Jordan with the University of Maryland Makerbot Laboratory in College Park.
“They helped us create a rendering of our finger which was ultimately 3D printed. This helped us reach the next stage of prototype development,” said Jordan. “And, while we were working on this we discovered there are millions of people worldwide who are missing fingers.”
UM Ventures offices license innovations developed by faculty, students and staff to industry partners from early stage start-ups to industry giants. Services include evaluating, patenting and licensing intellectual property.
UM Ventures reviews invention disclosure forms from faculty, staff, students or joint appointee of the University of Maryland, plus direct from anyone not affiliated with the University System of Maryland to an appropriate state office to get help.
All available technologies are listed online at www.umventures.org/search/site under categories from the university’s labs in Baltimore and College Park. In 2012, UM Ventures was closing three or four start-up companies per year from available technologies from UM research. Now it is closing eight to 10 per year.