by Halle Smith
What’s better than potatoes and blue turf in the State of Idaho? Knowing your tax dollars are going towards funding projects that promote economic growth. After taking one look at the IGEM program, you’ll be confident to know they are doing just that.
IGEM is a unique program that funds commercialization research that advances private sector products and services by partnering business experts with Idaho university researchers. The program was approved during the 2012 legislative session and is currently in its fifth year. IGEM’s council is comprised of 12 members appointed by the governor. The University may have a technology that it would like to commercialize and seeks to partner with a business in the private sector that can take the technology to market. Alternatively, a member of Industry may need assistance with their research needs to advance a viable product and will partner with an Idaho university. The Department of Commerce also provides assistance in partnering business-to-university and university-to-business in an effort to further advance the technology. If needed, Commerce can help in the match making between the Idaho business and the Idaho university. By evaluating the project and its research needs, Commerce can provide the introduction to the partner that has the expertise necessary to assist with the development of the technology.
Idaho Code designates that only Idaho’s three public research universities can be recipients of this funding. This is by design as the program is funded by public tax dollars, these tax dollars are reinvested into Idaho’s public research universities.n most cases, students assit in the development of these products which gives them real-world experience in their fields. This not only helps the Idaho business needing research assistance, it enables the research team to work on cutting edge technology with real-world experience.
With more projects reaching out for funding each year, the IGEM Council carefully selects which projects they fund. While Idaho companies receive preferential consideration, many companies are not currently aware that this program is an option. “[We need to be] letting Idaho businesses know we have this program that can allow them to be competitive in a global market,” Carmen Achabal said. She added that the program has reached six out of Idaho’s seven economic regions in the state of Idaho. This investment in businesses and in researchers to develop technology will not only benefit our future, but the future of Idaho.
Recently Boise State University was awarded with $454,438 this year. The announcement was made in November for two businesses, Kairosys and Fiberguide. Kairosys which were awarded $194,003 for the research and development of a managed pollination solution. The project is to create innovations to provide growers improved pollination and pest management solutions. Idaho is the largest producer of Alfalfa seed in the US, an import crop to the state.
Fiberguide was $260,435 for the development of a spectroscopic reflectometer. If you don’t understand what that is, don’t worry. Only the people who can actually pronounce those words can tell you what the machine is. For us common folk, it is a device which replaces anti-reflection films with anti-reflection surfaces. It essentially reduces the amount of reflection on a surface to get the optimal amount of light passing through. This machine will be the first of its kind.
Fiberguide was originally founded in New Jersey in 1977 but has been in the valley since 1988. They provide efficient, cost-effective, practical fiber optic solutions sold on a global scale. Market globally, people come from around the world to see the facility in Caldwell. Getting a personal tour of the facility was incredible. The products being made are one-of-a-kind and are subject to several stages of testing to ensure that it is high quality and ready for market.
Dr. Devinder Saini, Vice-President of Fiberguide, initially heard about IGEM and suggested participation. He was meeting with one of the professors on Boise State campus and was informed of the potential funding opportunity. “For small companies like us this can make or break whether we move forward with something. So the IGEM program is amazing,” said Patricia Seniw, President of Fiberguide. “The IGEM committee has been great and I really love the whole idea around IGEM because it helps us develop. It helps us create jobs.”
Another great concept about IGEM is the facilitation of networking students’ work with local companies in their field. Dr. Saini said he liked the program because “it helps for students to know there is industry here, that there are potential jobs here instead of looking out of state.” The relationship between Fiberguide and Boise State is strong. Professors from the university have given seminars at Fiberguide. Dr. Saini has also given seminars at Boise State. Many Boise State students have interned at Fiberguide, including one who works there now.
IGEM has created a senergy which promotes emerging technology created by local businesses. Midway through its 5th year, IGEM will continue to award funding to businesses creating technological advancements as they have at Fiberguide and Kairosys. It is important to know where your tax dollars are going. After reading this article, I hope you can sleep a little easier tonight knowing it has been money well spent.
To learn more about IGEM visit igem.idaho.org