Graduate Business School Students Evaluate Commercialization of Groundbreaking Federal Technologies

In technology transfer, standing still is tantamount to falling behind. The field of federal technology transfer progresses because it teems with fresh and creative approaches to introduce the results of government-funded scientific research to the marketplace and to promote its commercialization.

One of the most impressive and innovative technology transfer initiatives is the Federal Lab Education Accelerator (FLEX) Program, sponsored by the Federal Laboratory Consortium (FLC). The FLEX Program began as a pilot program of the FLC’s dynamic and productive Mid-Atlantic region and is open to participants from all FLC regions. FLEX introduces graduate business school students to promising federal technology licensing opportunities. Teams of graduate students select promising patents, explore their contexts and potential, and then produce market assessments. The market assessments provide valuable information about the technologies’ potential growth and development to the federal agencies that developed them. 

Two teams of talented graduate students from the Arizona State University’s (ASU) W. P. Carey School of Business, one of the United States’ most prominent business schools, have examined two NIST technologies since the beginning of this academic year. They produced market assessments under the guidance of seasoned faculty and presented their case studies to an audience of NIST scientists and FLC staff in the late autumn of 2023.

A four-person student team investigated the marketing potential of the Wireless Wearable System to Monitor Levels of Fluids in the Lungs technology. This invention was developed by Dr. Kamran Sayrafian, an Electronics Engineer and Senior Scientist in NIST’s Information Technology Laboratory’s Applied and Computational Mathematics Division.

The team reported that the technology addresses Pulmonary Edema, a dangerous medical condition that is often a complication of left-sided Congestive Heart Failure, and that Congestive Heart Failure’s current annual healthcare costs are expected to double by 2030 to nearly $70 billion.

Current Pulmonary Edema monitoring necessitates going in person to a medical facility to be tested by costly equipment, but Dr. Sayrafian’s invention is portable, inexpensive, and offers continuous real-time monitoring. The team advocated an affordable subscription set-up, projected market size, based the product in the United States market, and outlined partnership channels to promote the wearable monitor. They also factored in approval by the FDA, accounted for ongoing observation of the system’s performance, and examined barriers to adopting the wearable monitor. 

The team’s concluding remarks were, “No other monitoring device can offer the cost savings to customers, and improved quality of life to the patients.”

The second technology reviewed was the Methodology for Detecting Face Morphing Using One-to-Many Face Recognition Algorithms, based on the research of NIST scientists Mei Lee Ngan, Kayee Kwong Hanaoka, and Patrick Joseph Grother of the Information Technology Laboratory.

Face morphing manipulates facial images by melding features from different faces, presenting a false and fraudulent image that purports to be accurate. It is a threat to government entities that use facial recognition technologies for passports, visas, and national ID cards and documents. 

The ASU team that explored this technology’s potential for commercialization was made up of four graduate business students. They thoroughly looked at the technology, decided to think outside the box, and explored the face morphing research’s applicability to detecting counterfeit manufactured products.

The annual sales of counterfeit products are believed to be in the $2 trillion range. Goods are sold online on e-commerce platforms, offline retail outlets, and by independent resellers. Only 10% of counterfeit goods are detected annually in the United States. The manufacturers of footwear, watches,  leather goods, clothes, and other apparel are particularly vulnerable to skilled counterfeiters.

The team proposed a Minimum Viable Product, an online platform accessed by paying users, which uploads a picture of the product being considered and responds with a “counterfeit score” for the item. They outlined potential partnerships and alliances for the product, detailed marketing strategies, and proposed an ongoing monitoring program to ensure the product performs optimally.

The FLEX Program accepts projects on a rolling basis, and colleges, universities, and scientific research institutes are welcome to learn more about it and explore its potential for their graduate business school students. 

Please let the NIST Technology Partnerships Office know if you are interested in learning more by sending an e-mail to TPO [at] NIST.GOV (TPO[at]NIST[dot]GOV), and we will put you in touch with people who can discuss the program with you.

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