Newest Deshpande Center grant round includes speech recognition, cardiac screening, wireless and environmental technologies

Cambridge 27 October 2003The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation has issued its largest grant round since the launch of the Center nearly one year ago. The Deshpande Center awarded 13 grants selected from 45 proposals. The seven Ignition grants, which fund proof of concept explorations, and six Innovation Programme grants, which further research towards commercialization, total $1,3 million. The grants were awarded to MIT faculty in the School of Engineering and support a wide range of emerging technologies, including medical technology, tiny technology, communications, information technology, and environmental innovations.


The Deshpande Center is part of the MIT School of Engineering and was established in 2002 through an initial $20 million gift from Jaishree Deshpande and Desh Deshpande, the co-founder and chairman of Sycamore Networks. The Deshpande Center was created to serve as a catalyst for innovation and entrepreneurship by supporting the research of MIT faculty and students, and facilitating collaboration among faculty, entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and innovative businesses. The centre helps researchers bring their ideas to fruition by supporting market-driven innovation, assisting with the intellectual property process, and enabling collaboration throughout the R&D phase.

The Fall 2003 grant recipients include:

  • Chiping Chen - Low-cost amplifiers for 3G wireless base stations: A novel power amplifier for wireless base stations could improve the performance of third-generation wireless networks and help create new markets worth $100 billion.
  • Yet Ming Chiang - Ionic colloidal crystals: The ability to manufacture ionic colloidal crystals, a new family of materials with fascinating properties, could lead to exciting applications in ultra filtration, drug delivery, photonic fingerprinting, and numerous other areas.
  • Woodie Flowers - Powered joint braces to help the mobility-impaired: A low-cost, easy-to-use medical device could help millions of disabled people achieve increased independence and save millions in out-of-pocket expenses for physical rehabilitation and assisted living.
  • Bill Green - New engine to replace diesel: A new take on the fuel-efficient, low-emission HCCI engine would be more robust and less complex than the original and could prove to be a long-awaited alternative to the polluting diesel engine.
  • John Guttag - An accurate, inexpensive cardiac screening system: A computerized cardiac screening system that is as non-invasive, inexpensive, and fast as a stethoscope, but much more accurate, and it could be a boon to cardiac diagnostics.
  • Doug Hart: 3D imaging technology to enable minimally invasive surgery: A novel 3D image-processing system could greatly enhance the medical procedure of endoscopy and enable robotic-assisted, minimally invasive surgery.
  • Klavs Jensen - The personal chemistry system, revolutionizing the chemical lab: A Personal Chemistry System (PCS), compact and capable of rapid discovery and development of new products, would revolutionize the chemical laboratory and chemical research as we know it.
  • Tom Knight - A new approach for speech recognition: A risky new processing approach could be the breakthrough necessary to finally make speech recognition a reality.
  • Dave Perreault - 3D circuit boards to enhance electronics at low cost: Three-dimensional printed circuit boards (3D PCBs) would provide better performance than current 2D technology and could capture a substantial portion of the $30 billion annual market in PCBs.
  • Caroline Ross - A simpler way to make micro-electronic devices: Simple, inexpensive magnetic devices could replace complex and costly silicon-based semiconductors in a variety of applications, from smart cards to merchandise tags.
  • Don Sadoway - A radical steelmaking method that could revolutionize the steel industry: Electrolytic steelmaking, a radical carbon-free method of producing steel, could clean up the industry and take control of a $200 billion worldwide market.
  • Peter So - A new device for non-invasive tissue biopsy: A new type of endoscope using two-photon imaging could diagnose disease without tissue removal and create a new market for non-invasive tissue biopsy.
  • Greg Wornell - Advanced algorithms to increase wireless network capacity: Really smart antenna algorithms have the opportunity to increase the capacity of wireless networks to prepare for the upcoming explosion in demand for wireless video services.

Since the Center's formal launch in October of last year, the Center has made significant progress in building bridges between academic research and the marketplace. Over the past year, the Center has awarded three grant rounds totaling $3 million. In addition to awarding grants, the Deshpande Center facilitates relationships with a host of business resources on and off campus. To date, the Center has successfully facilitated collaborations through events including four Faculty Entrepreneurship Workshops; two Ignition forums; an open house; and the Deshpande IdeaStream Symposium, which sold out at 270 attendees and featured a key note from Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.

Additionally, the Deshpande Center this fall is piloting a new programme called the "Catalyst Programme". In this programme, volunteers or "Catalysts" from the business community make a one-year commitment as a liaison between MIT faculty, the Deshpande Center, and industry. Catalysts serve as advisors to the Executive and Faculty Directors and keep track of a small portfolio of sponsored projects.

The Center also is pleased to report on a host of success stories from its portfolio of emerging technologies. The Center announced earlier this year that one of the teams from its inaugural grant round, led by Doug Hart, formed a company called Brontes and was a runner-up in the MIT $50K Entrepreneurship Competition. He has received a second grant to explore a new application of their 3D imaging technology and the company is beginning to seek VC funding.

Additionally, Mechanical Engineering Professor Woodie Flowers' team, which won an Ignition Grant last fall and has received follow-on funding for a project called Active Joint Brace for Assisted Motion and Rehabilitation, has been working with Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital on their device that has shown initial promise with patients in reducing the time and increasing the quality of rehabilitation for spinal cord injury. His team is currently working on miniaturizing the joint brace system to prepare it for clinical studies next year, with their ultimate aim to start a company that would market the device.

Additionally, Professor Robert Langer's team has been in discussions with a major medical device manufacturer and venture capital firms regarding his tissue engineering technology that, with Deshpande Center funding, is ready to enter clinical trials by early next year. "The Deshpande grant came at a crucial time, providing the resources needed to demonstrate the technology", stated Professor Douglas Hart, inventor of the 3D imaging technology being funded by the Center. "The charter of the Deshpande Center is new to academia. It provides an opportunity to move technology from the lab into the market."

Until now, obstacles in the innovation process, between initial idea and commercialization, have caused research to be left undeveloped in the laboratory. The Deshpande Center supports research in emerging technologies and helps reduce the risk around investing in new technologies. Additional information on the Deshpande Center's grant programme, submissions, research portfolio, and other entrepreneurial resources can be found on the Web site of the Deshpande Center.

Leslie Versweyveld

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