Friday, June 9, 2006
Bridging the gap between science and business
By Rebecca Wyatt, OU Web Writer
|Brent Chapman, project manager for Jadi, demonstrates and Sidewinder, an omni-directional vehicle project Jadi is currently developing.|
Professors, students and researchers can spend years researching and experimenting with a theory, and most of the time the progress they make isn’t recognized by society. Not true for a team of OU students, researchers and professors have a unique opportunity to bring research to commercialization with the help of Jadi, Inc., a tenant in OU INC, Oakland University’s business incubator.
Jadi, formerly a one-man consulting firm started by Ka C. Cheok, professor of engineering in electronics and systems engineering, is a government-funded research and development robotics firm specializing in manufacturing unmanned vehicles for the military. Jadi is working with the government and other companies to build useful tools that can one day be commercialized.
Michigan is encouraging university professors to be more entrepreneurial and aid the state economy. Led by Cheok, who was a runner-up for the 2005 Michigan University Award for Commercialization, and Edzko Smid, a former-post doctoral researcher, Jadi opened in January 2005.
“What we try to do is come up with new technology, new techniques and new products,” said Smid. “Researchers want to build a reputation in the science field but aren’t really getting the research into society. We are here to take what they find and expand on it.”
Jadi is working on a number of projects, including a highly mobile portable autonomous robot with precision navigation, intelligent motion planning for omni-directional vehicles and a quartz microbalance system.
“We have collaborative partners that we work with to research and develop these ideas and hopefully one day bring them to the marketplace,” said Brent Chapman, project manager.
Through partnerships with companies, the university and the government, and the help of OU INC, Jadi hopes to continue to receive grants to improve and market products.
“All of these products can become commercially viable, by creating jobs which will help stimulate Michigan’s economy,” said Chapman.
Cross-disciplinary Collaboration at Work
A new project relies on research coming from OU. With the research supervision of Xiangqun Zeng, assistant professor of chemistry, Jadi and OU are working with the quartz crystal microbalance (QCM), a device capable of measuring very small quantities of a substance. Specific coatings can be applied to the surface of the crystal to allow only certain chemicals to bond, creating a detectable mass change.
|One of Jadi's projects is a highly mobile portable autonomous robot with precision navigation.|
The crystals are housed in a small box containing electronics which can detect changes in the mass. Using a laptop or personal digital assistant (PDA), the user can note the change.
The technology of the QCM can be used in sensing toxic gas, detecting explosives, drugs, biological or chemical agents and clinical diagnostics.
OU is heavily involved in the research process while Jadi completes the technical and business aspects of the operation.
Through a grant from Jadi, four doctoral and master’s students from OU are also being funded to work on research and development. They are researching path and motion planning, navigation, perception, guidance and autonomous execution.
“The students are learning a lot,” said Cheok. “These technologies are not available in the classroom course. They are learning new things and applying them within a week. And because Jadi is a small business, they are able to see the process from start to finish, including the business side of things, which is something they wouldn’t see in a big company.”
Cheok said Jadi is the answer to the “so what” question. He said they take the research and find out how it can be beneficial for other people.
In such a highly competitive industry, Smid said the teamwork and collaboration between business and academia has provided a more expeditious process for research and testing, allowing the company to get the product out in a competitive time frame.
“Some of the things Zeng has been doing in the lab are so new and innovative that the university has filed several patents,” said Smid, adding the quicker the technology is used by society, the more return for the university.
Cheok said working with OU INC provides Jadi the opportunity to have research and students involved in the process thus making them able to reinvest in the university through grant money.
“The incubator is an excellent way to promote concept, theory, prototype and commercialization,” said Cheok.
Jadi is one of two companies currently in the incubator, which has room for six technology start-up firms. OU INC can help new businesses through the first few years, which prove to be the most difficult for most.
For more information on OU’s business incubator and Jadi, Inc., visit the OU INC Web site.