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NASA Startup Studio Kicks Off Virtually

Three people interacting and smiling.
Ben Solomon, Founder of FedTech, interacts with NASA Startup Studio mentors during a 2019 event in Washington, D.C.
Credits: FedTech

NASA is no stranger to helping entrepreneurs turn their dreams into reality. With a long history of transferring NASA technology to the private sector, hundreds of ground-breaking commercial products – from life-saving medical devices to cameras in cell phones – have been developed using technology originally invented for space.

Now, the agency is training entrepreneurs in a new way. NASA Startup Studio matches entrepreneurs directly with NASA technologies prime for commercialization and encourages them to brainstorm products that can be used on Earth.

An eight-week NASA Startup Studio kicked off July 9, and, while virtual, has more participants from Ohio than any other state. More than two dozen entrepreneurs formed nine teams based on their unique backgrounds. Throughout the next month and a half, they will learn how to build a product line and business around NASA technologies with commercial potential.

“We’ve held past NASA Startup Studios in Washington, D.C. and wanted to bring it to more people around the country,” said Daniel Lockney, NASA’s Technology Transfer program executive. “We originally planned to host this one in Cleveland, but as a virtual program, Ohio-based entrepreneurs can team up with innovators in other states as well.”

Of the nine technologies selected for this workshop, which range from advanced sensors to aircraft propulsion systems, six were invented at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland. But finding the right technology is only the first step. NASA’s Technology Transfer Expansion (T2X) Manager Christie Funk said entrepreneurs often need a helping hand.

“Entrepreneurship and technology transfer aren’t easy,” said Funk. “NASA Startup Studio helps bridge the gap by educating entrepreneurs about starting ventures and pairing them with our patented technologies with commercial potential.”

The program will help participants overcome challenges that come with starting a business. FedTech, an organization that specializes in connecting entrepreneurs with technologies from federal labs, runs the program on behalf of NASA. FedTech will help the participants develop skills to discover customers, iterate business models, traverse the technology “valley of death,” and garner investment to gain a competitive edge and be successful. Business mentors will also serve as professional sources of advice throughout the eight weeks.

“With the help of FedTech, we’re providing tools to accelerate commercialization of NASA technologies while potentially helping create new businesses in Ohio and across the country,” said Funk.

For NASA, the ultimate goal of the activity is for participants to form startups and license NASA-developed technology to begin creating a new product that benefits the public.

This NASA Startup Studio will end with the teams presenting their final business plans on Sept. 2, 2020, during a virtual public event. To view the livestream and learn more about future opportunities, please register here before Aug. 28.