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ODU Gets Down to Business

Inventors and entrepreneurs struggle to launch their ideas. They are flummoxed by a morass of red tape and nervous investors, who, in this weary economic climate, want an immediate return. Old Dominion University may have an answer, or at least is offering solutions to the problem of transforming ideas into profits.

The idea, according to two ODU officials, is to marry the pursuit of knowledge, a mission of universities, with the management of knowledge, a private sector endeavor.

Tom Osha, president and CEO of Innovation Research Park at ODU, and Jerry Robertson, executive director of the university's Gateway initiative, recently highlighted this connection between a university and inventors and entrepreneurs in Hampton.

Osha said technology is getting more, not less, expensive, so companies must change how they do business. ODU has an economic development role, Osha said, but it must become an active instead of passive participant in the economy. The private sector can leverage the leading research of universities, such as modeling and simulation and oceanography.

Founded by the Frank Batten College of Engineering and Technology as a means of providing technical assistance and professional development for business, Business Gateway is a single entry point and the front door for all of the university's services, Osha told the audience.

Resources of Business Gateway are the students, the faculties and the specialized laboratories where experiments and tests, such as materials testing and software development, are conducted. Robertson listed some examples of companies ODU has helped, such as Rebatt Inc., Solo Manufacturing and Bay Beyond. Working with ODU, Rebatt reduced its costs by $209,000 over five years due to a redesign of the company's assembly line to recondition camera batteries.

For Solo, ODU redesigned the assembly of a pump, which saved the company $5 million, boosted its revenues and lowered the high incidence of carpal tunnel syndrome employees were contracting because of the previous assembly operation.

ODU is looking at other ways to transform ideas into companies and profits, such as creating an express licensing program for university research to speed research to the commercial marketplace.

Osha praised the draw of ODU's Innovation Research Park, saying it creates a sense of place for entrepreneurs.

To bring people together, the park hosts a monthly event called "unWined."

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