CITY, S.D. (March 7, 2014) – Long known for its innovation and research, the South
Dakota School of Mines & Technology is quickly becoming recognized as a
place where technology transfers into the marketplace.
Entrepreneur-in-Residence program at the School of Mines started in 2012 has
become the recipe for success, leading university startup companies to win the
prestigious Governor’s Giant Vision Award for two consecutive years.
year’s winner, Nanofiber Separations, LLC, won not only the Giant Vision’s $20,000
first-place prize, competing against companies statewide, but was also recently
awarded a $709,849 Small Business Innovation Research by the National Science
Foundation. In 2011, Dr. Todd Menkhaus of the Department of Chemical and
Biological Engineering and Dr. Hao Fong of the Department of Chemistry and
Applied Biological Science, started the company which could lower the cost of
pharmaceuticals and other purification processes by producing cutting-edge
nanofiber materials that greatly enhance efficiencies.
year, another Mines’ startup company, CalxAqua, LLC, led by alumnus Matt Peabody,
won first place in the Giant Vision competition. Technology used at CalxAqua provides
a less expensive and safer alternative to other systems for removal of arsenic
and heavy metals from water.
both cases, Mines researchers developed technology on campus that led to the
formation of the companies. Through the university’s new
Entrepreneur-in-Residence program, a chief executive officer with a proven
track record, were recruited to help commercialize the companies.
Separations, for example, is being led by CEO Craig Arnold whose impressive
resume includes nearly six years as director of the Bill and Melinda Gates
Foundation and other high-profile companies. Arnold, who now lives in western
Iowa, was previously CEO of both Permara, and Plymouth Energy and currently
serves on the Sanford National Thought Leaders Council, among other
foundations. He also managed programs at Gateway, Northrup Grumman and Boeing.
Entrepreneur-in-Residence program has been as successful as we hoped,” says
Joseph Wright, associate vice president for research-economic development. “To
win the Governor’s Giant Vision competition two years in a row shows that this
program has a bright future. We have been thrilled with the level of skill we
have been able to attract to the program, and what is more remarkable is that
they are volunteers.”
entrepreneurs, he says, are looking for “the opportunity” more than the paycheck.
a state university, we serve as a catalyst for economic development by
advancing knowledge and then getting innovations into the marketplace. The
Entrepreneur-in-Residence program is just one successful program that connects
entrepreneurial managers with technical innovations developed by faculty,” says
Mines President Heather Wilson.
business leaders are brought in on a volunteer basis, willing to take the job
with no salary in the true entrepreneurial spirit. Among the 10 entrepreneurs
in place so far is Ronald Van Horssen, a 1973 School of Mines alumnus who is a
former Inc. magazine Entrepreneur of
the Year. Van Horssen studied chemical engineering at the School of Mines,
received an MSIA from Carnegie Mellon and founded and was CEO of Mobile
Technology Inc., the nation’s leading diagnostic imaging and shared services company
in the 1980s. Since then, he has founded and served as an advisor and CEO for a
wide range of enterprises, often involving new technologies.
researchers are doing such good work at solving real-life problems. The application
of the research is not a decade away. We are very much an applied research
school and I think that’s what attracts these entrepreneurs. We give them
unprecedented access to research. They see the opportunity that may be latent
within our research,” Wright explains.
South Dakota School of Mines & Technology has become a place where entrepreneurs
can incubate their ideas and engage its facilities and, more importantly, a
place where the students can bring their ideas to the marketplace,” says Arnold
who, as Nanofiber Separations CEO, is leading business development and
commercialization efforts both domestically and internationally.
can take many years to become an overnight success,” Arnold says, adding that after
eight years of development work at Mines, Nanofiber Separations has significant
opportunity for revenue generation from multiple channels, including the
biopharmaceutical, water treatment, air purification, desalination and blood
products industries. “Another very important part of the story is how SDSM&T
has recognized the challenges of technology transfer and their approach to
addressing the challenges through their Entrepreneur-in-Residence program,”
of a start-up company requires several pieces, not the least of which is the
proprietary technology behind the product and a good business plan, Wright
emphasizes. Other EIR models involve a paid CEO position and other personnel,
each wearing a different hat, which often involves additional layers of bureaucracy
that make it slower to achieve success.
are really excited because we think that our program, which is unique to this university,
can be replicated all over the county. I firmly believe that in 20 years the
model we are building here will be widely accepted and the way to do things,”
an exciting time to be at the school if you’re involved in economic development
and entrepreneurism,” Wright says.
Founded in 1885, the South Dakota School of Mines
& Technology is a science and engineering research university located in
Rapid City, S.D., offering bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees. The
university enrolls 2,640 students from 45 states and 37 countries, with a
student-to-faculty ratio of 14:1. The average starting salary for graduates is
$62,400 with a 98 percent placement rate. Find us online at www.sdsmt.edu, on
Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/sdsmt and on Twitter