Fueling Economic Growth

ECE & ChE Professor Vincent Harris’s company Metamagnetics, which develops radar and communication electronics for military applications, is a prime example of small companies fueling economic growth.

Source: News @ Northeastern

Uni­ver­sity Dis­tin­guished Pro­fessor Vin­cent Harris had been devel­oping novel mate­rials at the Naval Research Lab­o­ra­tory for almost 15 years when he founded Meta­m­ag­netics, a small busi­ness that develops radar and com­mu­ni­ca­tion elec­tronics for mil­i­tary applications.

The team devel­oped great tech­nolo­gies with the finan­cial assis­tance of sev­eral National Sci­ence Foun­da­tion grants, Harris said, but often times those tech­nolo­gies would be left hanging on the vine went the grants expired.

With Meta­m­ag­netics, which has netted a total of $6.5 mil­lion in fed­eral funding, Harris took the basic research off the vine and out of the lab, trans­lating it into some­thing valu­able for the nation and the economy.

Meta­m­ag­netics and two other North­eastern spinoff com­pa­nies—Novo­bi­otic Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals and Akrivis Tech­nolo­gies—are high­lighted in a new national report released Tuesday by The Sci­ence Coali­tion, a non­profit, non­par­tisan orga­ni­za­tion of more than 50 of the nation’s leading public and pri­vate research uni­ver­si­ties including Northeastern.

“The report was devel­oped during this chal­lenging fed­eral budget envi­ron­ment, to make the clear case for con­tinued fed­eral invest­ment in basic research that results in tan­gible out­comes,” explained Tim Leshan, Northeastern’s vice pres­i­dent for gov­ern­ment rela­tions and the cur­rent pres­i­dent of the Sci­ence Coalition.

Founded by biology pro­fes­sors Slava Epstein and Kim Lewis, Novo­bi­otic Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals is seeking out new antibi­otic com­pounds by devel­oping tech­nolo­gies that cul­ti­vate microor­gan­isms pre­vi­ously impos­sible to grow in the lab.

Akrivis Tech­nolo­gies develops tar­geted delivery plat­forms that allow clin­i­cians to both treat and diag­nose cancer ear­lier than tra­di­tional methods. The com­pany was founded on basic research from phar­ma­ceu­tical sci­ences pro­fessor Ban An Khaw’s lab.

Sparking Eco­nomic Growth 2.0: Com­pa­nies Cre­ated from Fed­er­ally Funded Research, Fueling Amer­ican Inno­va­tion and Eco­nomic Growth iden­ti­fies 100 com­pa­nies that trace their roots to fed­er­ally funded uni­ver­sity research. These companies—while only a tiny frac­tion of the new com­pa­nies formed each year—are con­tributing to the U.S. economy in a sig­nif­i­cant way by bringing inno­va­tions to the market and cre­ating new employ­ment opportunities.

“Small busi­ness is the lifeblood of our economy,” said Harris, who holds joint appoint­ments in the Depart­ment of Chem­ical Engi­neering and the Depart­ment of Elec­trical and Com­puter Engi­neering. “It’s where new jobs are cre­ated and where new oppor­tu­ni­ties to global mar­kets take shape.”

The report finds that in the cur­rent funding envi­ron­ment, small businesses—especially those spin­ning out of university-​​based research programs—are facing serious chal­lenges. Fed­eral funding for R&D has been on a down­ward trend for the past decade, with funding levels in 2013 at his­toric lows. Seques­tra­tion, which began in March 2013, is set to run through 2021 and will wring an addi­tional $95 bil­lion from fed­eral research bud­gets over this period. This national dis­in­vest­ment in sci­ence will have real con­se­quences. As the com­pa­nies high­lighted in the eco­nomic growth report illus­trate, research and the trans­for­ma­tive dis­cov­eries that flow from it often require sus­tained funding over many years to yield results.

Meta­m­ag­netics, Novo­bi­otic, and Akrivis Tech­nolo­gies, are prime exam­ples of this return on invest­ment. Their work also aligns with Northeastern’s com­mit­ment to use-​​inspired research that solves global chal­lenges in health, secu­rity, and sustainability.

Northeastern’s Center for Research Inno­va­tion is working to help fac­ulty mem­bers create value out of their basic research find­ings. CRI offers a port­folio of pro­grams to stream­line the process and con­nect pas­sionate researchers with highly moti­vated entrepreneurs.

For more infor­ma­tion on the report’s find­ings, see this info­graphic pro­duced by The Sci­ence Coalition.


Related Faculty: Vincent G. Harris

Related Departments:Chemical Engineering, Electrical & Computer Engineering