Statewide Small Business Workshop at Rose-Hulman Encourages Entrepreneurial Spirit

Tuesday, February 22, 2022
A group of individuals sit at tables watching someone speak at a podium at Rose-Hulman.

Entrepreneurs and small business leaders from across Indiana gathered on campus to learn how they can take advantage of federal innovation and technology transfer funding opportunities in the future.

Rose-Hulman is fostering the entrepreneurial spirit within Indiana by helping link small business to federal research and research and development opportunities through the following principle: nothing ventured, nothing gained.

The institute on February 18 hosted the first of a series of free statewide workshops organized by the Indiana Procurement and Technical Assistance Center (PTAC), IN3 (Indiana Innovation Institute), and NavalX Midwest Tech Bridge to offer guidance on how businesses can take advantage of the federal Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer (SBIR/STTR) programs.

Rose-Hulman President Robert A. Coons said, “We encourage the growing interest in entrepreneurship across Indiana, and especially the Wabash Valley, to establish a hub of innovation that will make it possible for ideas to grow and compete. More and more of our students and alumni are interested in entrepreneurship and we want to strongly support these enterprises in the future.”

Julie Griffith, IN3’s executive vice president for strategy, partnerships and outreach, stated, “It has become so clear that the innovation ecosystem is present (at Rose-Hulman).”

SBIR is a highly competitive program that encourages domestic small businesses (500 or fewer employees) to engage in federal research and research and development (R&D) that has the potential for commercialization. Through a competitive award process, SBIR enables small businesses to explore their technological potential and provides the incentive to profit from commercializing their products.

The STTR program expands funding opportunities in the federal innovation arena. Central to the program is the expansion of the public/private sector partnership to include joint venture opportunities between small businesses and non-profit research institutions.

Both programs’ objectives are to stimulate technological innovation, engage small businesses to meet federal research and development needs, foster and encourage participation in innovation and entrepreneurship by socially and economically disadvantaged small businesses, and increase private sector commercialization of innovations derived from federal R&D funding.

Rose-Hulman’s innovation space, Rose-Hulman Ventures, has creative specialists who turn ideas into reality. During the past 22 years it has offered rapid prototyping, product design and testing equipment while discovering the best solutions along the way. And companies and entrepreneurs are allowed to retain their intellectual property.

Senior Director Brian Dougherty said Rose-Hulman Ventures provides an “effective innovation space” that has professional engineering and project managers and Rose-Hulman student interns working with 20-25 clients at any time to take ideas from start to finish. Some of these clients have received federal and state funding to develop their projects but need expertise for gaining venture capital and eventual commercialization.

“Some of our clients don’t know what’s practical, the limitations to their creative ideas, and what steps need to be taken to bring their product to the marketplace. We have the expertise to assist with all of those steps,” said Dougherty.

Interested entrepreneurs can reach out to Ryan McDonald, Rose-Hulman Ventures’ director of business development, at or 812-244-4020.

Thomas Foulkes, PhD, a 2015 electrical engineering alumnus, has benefitted from federal R&D resources to found Pacergy LLC as an Innovation Crossroads Entrepreneurial Fellow at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Knoxville, Tennessee. He appreciated Rose-Hulman hosting the workshop for other budding entrepreneurs. 

“This session can be a springboard and roadmap for entrepreneurs. It is great to see Rose-Hulman supporting these efforts. It is like pouring kerosene on creative ideas,” said the chief executive officer of Pacergy, which also has an office in Terre Haute. “This opened my eyes on how I could take the technical and humanities skills I gained (at Rose-Hulman) and align them with government opportunities.”

The workshop attracted Indiana small business representatives in-person and virtually from Brazil, Evansville, Carmel, Columbus, Martinsville, Pendleton, Sellersburg, and Vincennes.

“IN3 and other state agencies are breaking down barriers for tech entrepreneurs to start meaningful conversations to help Indiana small business tap into these valuable federal resources. It’s not easy and we need all the help and advice we can get. It is nice to get entrepreneurs, state officials and educators together and working together,” said Sai Naik, chief executive officer of Mavin Software Solutions Group.

He came to Rose-Hulman in hopes of finding new markets for the company in the defense sector, including providing solutions to America’s warfighters and new partners from the Naval Surface Warfare Center at Crane, Indiana.

Five additional regional workshops will be conducted across Indiana through September.