IGEM Funded Idaho Entrepreneurial Gems

IGEM (Idaho Global Entrepreneurial Mission)

Now in its 6th year, IGEM grants are awarded to Idaho research universities to provide research and development services to companies. The goal is to accelerate commercialization of new inventions and discoveries in in the areas of agriculture, aerospace, biomedical, veterinarian technology, energy, transportation, data analytics and many others. Companies can use these funds to leverage the expertise of researchers at the University of Idaho, Idaho State University and/or Boise State University, to advance the deployment of cutting-edge products and services. Approximately $950,000 is awarded annually by the 12-member IGEM Council, appointed by Idaho Governor Butch Otter to review IGEM proposals.

Each project combines rigorous scientific inquiry and advanced business strategies to develop and launch innovative products and services. These public-private partnerships leverage overlap in interests between Idaho universities and industries that are important to our region. They allow researchers to concentrate on executing complex research plans in science, engineering, technology, and math (STEM), while allowing growing businesses to focus on testing, and refining, and executing the business model necessary to take a new product to market.

Public-Private Partnerships Between Researchers And Industry

  • University of Idaho
  • Idaho State University
  • Boise State University

IGEM Develops Entrepreneurial Gems In The Gem State

Dr. Ahmed Abdel-Rahim

Pairing Traffic Signals And Raised Pavement Markings

Industry Partner: Evolutionary Markings, Inc.
Principal Investigator: Dr. Ahmed Abdel-Rahim
Project extended January 2018

IGEM Develops Entrepreneurial Gems In The Gem StateThe University of Idaho and the National Institute for Advanced Transportation Technology (NIATT) evaluated solar-powered battery operated, LED illuminated, raised pavement marking (RPM) models to document their safety benefits in different applications. Partnering with Evolutionary Markings Inc., an Idaho company, IGEM funded the development of real-time communication and data exchange between RPM devices and smart traffic control systems, connected vehicles, and autonomous vehicles.

IGEM Develops Entrepreneurial Gems In The Gem StateAll of the objectives of the proposal have been achieved, and the products are now being deployed in testbeds across the Pacific Northwest. A test installation of the technology in Olympia, WA was recently featured in the September edition of the journal for the Washington State Institute of Transportation Engineers. Idaho Transportation Department has assigned projects to Dr. Abdel-Rahim to test the system in several challenging locations in Idaho, including new overpass-interchanges similar to the new Vista Avenue and I-84 interchange near the Boise Airport.

IGEM Develops Entrepreneurial Gems In The Gem State

Dr. Paul Gessler

Unmanned Aerial Systems Data Analytics

Industry Partners: Empire Unmanned Inc., ZData Inc. (now Atos)
Principal Investigator: Dr. Paul Gesslervi.
Project completed June 2016

The University of Idaho and Idaho National Laboratory have partnered with Idaho companies, zData Inc. and Empire Unmanned Inc., to develop a comprehensive data management system to acquire, process, visualize and disseminate data gathered by Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) services. The new information system will expand Empire Unlimited’s service offerings and improve their processes for collecting UAS data and making it available to customers.

IGEM Develops Entrepreneurial Gems In The Gem StateEmpire Unmanned uses UAS for aerial mapping, surveying, inspections, monitoring, damage assessments, search and rescue, traffic flows, wildlife tracking, forest fire management, timber inventory, bridge and railway evaluations, and photography and video services for a wide variety of industries. High-resolution cameras and the ability to hover over hard to reach areas allow image capture of serial numbers, tiny cracks, seal leaks and corrosion in real-time. Empire’s UAS units equipped with geo-referencing sensors allow data acquisition suitable for accurate digital and hardcopy maps. The project seeks to engage UAS researchers from across the state and provide workforce development for the expanding UAS industry projected at $8.7 billion annually by 2025.

IGEM Develops Entrepreneurial Gems In The Gem State

Dr. Don Morishita

Decreasing Pesticide Overspray

Industry Partner: GenZ Corp.
Principal Investigator: Dr. Don Morishita
Project completed March 2014

Each year, in California alone, thousands of growers apply more than 100 million tons of chemicals. More than 70% of those chemicals miss their target and are wasted at great expense to growers and the environment.

Partnering with GenZ Corp. Dr. Don Morishita conducted field trials that showed reductions in off-target pesticide applications and amount of pesticide needed to achieve effectiveness. GenZ used Dr. Morishita’s work develop an air-assisted tunnel design that surrounds the crop and shields the spray from the wind which results in greater concentrations of on-target spray.

GenZ’s pesticide application system has been used for strawberry and lettuce crops and was a Regional Winner of the 1776 Challenge Cup and invited to compete at the Global 1776 Challenge Cup competition. This project has raised $2 million in capital for GenZ from angel funds and has also hired eight new employees.

IGEM Develops Entrepreneurial Gems In The Gem State

Dr. Paul Wharton

A Better Potato Fungicide

Industry Partners: SunRain Varieties, LLC, Agri-Stor Company, AMVAC Chemical Corporation
Principal Investigator: Dr. Phillip Wharton
Project completed March 2014

2E-Hexenal is a naturally occurring, volatile compound with a “grassy” smell, produced by bananas and tomatoes. Research at the University of Idaho by Dr. Phillip Wharton has demonstrated 2E-Hexenal application showed dramatic reductions in crop losses due to postharvest pathogens. The 2010 Idaho potato crop valued at $915 million with crop losses of $57. 5 million from disease and other factors. (download)

IGEM Develops Entrepreneurial Gems In The Gem StateFew fungicides are approved for tubers. The direct application brings risks to humans and leaves residues even after cooking. The product resulting from Dr. Wharton’s work is now patented. SunRain Varieties, LLC has reimbursed the university for patent expenses as they continue work and roll out a commercial product. Additional patents are pending in Mexico, Europe, Canada, Chile, and Brazil.

IGEM Develops Entrepreneurial Gems In The Gem State

Dr. Malcom Burbank


Industry Partner: Aquatic Life Sciences, Inc.
Principal Investigator: Dr. Malcom Burbank
Project completed June 2014

BioCement™, invented by Dr. Malcolm Burbank, stimulates native soil bacteria to cement soil particles together through a process known as Microbial Induced Calcite Precipitation (MICP). Cemented soil particles form a hardened, less permeable material similar to limestone, which is used for soil cementation and remediation.

IGEM Develops Entrepreneurial Gems In The Gem StateIn 2013 Marshall Piatt and Nick Lodato partnered with Dr. Burbank for the University of Idaho VIEW Business Plan Competition, a won first prize. After graduation, Piatt and Lodato decided launch BioCement Technologies™, Inc. using Dr. Burbank’s processes. With the help of IGEM and SBIR (Small Business Innovation Research) grants in 2013, BioCement Technologies™ created soil stabilization solutions for shallow and deep foundation augmentations, unpaved road stabilization, road subgrades, dust control, heavy metal remediation, habitat restoration, bridge piers, slope erosion, underground infrastructure, groundwater flows, and earthquake-induced soil liquefaction (read more). This technology has been patented in the U.S., New Zealand, Australia, and Canada. Royalty revenue from this license is anticipated in spring, 2017.

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