Seattle, WA – April 24, 2024

Many of the technologies that have revolutionized our modern world originated from academic research. However, navigating the process of bringing a new technology to the commercial market can be challenging for academic researchers. The new Western Innovation Training Fellowship program at Western Washington University (WWU), made possible through a $200,000 programmatic grant from Washington Research Foundation (WRF), hopes to equip promising students and professors with the knowledge and tools they need to navigate this complex transition.

The Western Innovation Training Fellowship, which accepted its inaugural cohort in February, is designed to cultivate a community of entrepreneurial researchers at WWU. The fellowship supports student-faculty partnerships across STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) departments. The inaugural cohort comprises the following five student-faculty teams, each pursuing research projects with notable potential for commercialization.

  • Professor Gregory O’Neil is working with undergraduate chemistry student Kaden Hekker to design a device that enables chemists to access air- and moisture-sensitive chemicals while protecting the chemicals from the environment.
  • Professor David Wallin and Associate Professor John Lund are working with undergraduate computer science student Ian Cambridge to develop long range RFID location-tracking technology for land use and wildlife tracking.
  • Professor Jim Cooper is working with marine and coastal sciences graduate student Abi Lee to develop techniques for improving the hatching success and survival of farmed surf smelt.
  • Associate Professor Sura Alqudah is working with undergraduate manufacturing engineering student Elliot Eades to prototype a device to help guide surgical rod implantation in long bones like the tibia or femur.
  • Associate Professor Anu Sin-Cundy is working with biology graduate student David Burgdorf to understand the proteins that comprise cell wells in plants with an eye towards using these proteins in textiles and biofuels.

To provide concurrent support for team research projects and each team’s understanding of the technology commercialization landscape, fellowship awardees have access to two key resources: student research fellowships and innovation training. Student research fellowships provide funds to cover some research costs and a summer stipend, so students can continue working on their research over the summer. The innovation training program provides educational workshops to further student and professor understanding of the research commercialization landscape, plus networking opportunities. Awardees have already begun participating in the program, engaging in both networking and innovation-focused training. This has included attending meetings exclusive to fellowship recipients and workshops that cover essential topics like business frameworks and intellectual property rights.

Clarisse Benson, WRF’s manager of student and postdoctoral programs, said, “WRF is proud to support the Western Innovation Training Fellowship program. We look forward to seeing this transformative new program empower students and professors to bridge the gap between academia and commercialization, fostering a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship. By investing in the next generation of researchers and technologies, we hope to ignite progress and cultivate a diverse, inclusive STEM workforce poised to shape the future.”

By helping students and professors bridge the gap between academic research and the commercial sector, the Western Innovation Training Fellowship will not only accelerate the journey of promising technologies from concept to market, but also promote a broad representation of ideas and perspectives in the STEM workforce. The fellowship’s package of support is designed to help prepare a new generation of researchers for the opportunities and challenges of technology commercialization. The program is poised to boost WWU’s role in technological advancements and foster an inclusive community of innovation-driven researchers.


About Washington Research Foundation

Washington Research Foundation (WRF) supports research and scholarship in Washington state, with a focus on life sciences and enabling technologies. WRF was founded in 1981 to assist universities and other nonprofit research institutions in Washington with the commercialization and licensing of their technologies. WRF is one of the foremost technology transfer and grant-making organizations in the nation, having earned more than $445 million in licensing revenue for the University of Washington and providing over $152 million in grants to the state’s research institutions to date.

WRF Capital, the investment vehicle for Washington Research Foundation, has backed 131 local startups since 1996. Returns support the Foundation’s investment and grantmaking programs.

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About Western Washington University

Western Washington University offers more than 200 academic programs on its main campus located in Bellingham, and at additional sites in Anacortes, Bremerton, Everett, Kirkland, Port Angeles, Poulsbo and Renton. Western is recognized nationally for its successes, such as being named one of the top public master’s-granting institutions in the Pacific Northwest for 25 years in a row by U.S. News & World Report. The report also ranks WWU in the top 10 in the West—a region encompassing more than 500 public colleges and universities from Texas to the West Coast—and also spotlights Western as among the best colleges for veterans.

WWU is identified as among the most sustainable, green campuses in the nation by the Sierra Club, is known for being a top producer of prestigious National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Hollings Scholars, Fulbright Scholars, and Peace Corps volunteers, and nationally ranked for graduates who go on to earn research doctorates. The Chronicle of Higher Education’s Academic Workplace report named Western as one of the best colleges in the nation to work for, winning honors in two categories: teaching environment and tenure clarity and process. Western is proud to be a nationally recognized First Gen Forward institution.