NJIT awarded $6M grant to accelerate research in health care, energy and tech

Newark’s New Jersey Institute of Technology on Wednesday said it secured a $6 million grant from the National Science Foundation to translate science and engineering discoveries into market-ready technologies that will improve quality of life in areas such as health care, sustainable energy and data privacy.

Awarded by the NSF’s Directorate for Technology, Innovation and Partnerships, the grant will accelerate the development of promising prototypes and enable market validation and other commercialization activities.

The funding also will strengthen the university’s entrepreneurial culture through training workshops in technology translation for undergraduates, Ph.D. students, post-doctoral researchers and faculty, through a new Center for Translational Research.

“NJIT’s goal is to become a regional leader in research translation,” Atam Dhawan, senior vice provost for research and the grant’s principal investigator, said. “We have many game-changing technologies in the pipeline that are on the cusp of commercialization. This grant provides crucial backing for these projects.”

The grant, Dhawan explained, is designed to bolster NJIT’s Technology Innovation Translation Acceleration program, which drills down on the potential commercial benefits of university research at earlier stages of the translation and market validation process.

TITA provides seed grants of up to $75,000 per project over three phases of development, as well as guidance and feedback from an industrial advisory board composed of inventors and entrepreneurs. Inventors must have external partners.

In the next four years, the new NSF grant will supply seed funding of $50,000 to $100,000 per project to up to 10 TITA researchers. It will provide, for example, backing to help developers move past the initial proof of concept, including determining interest and acceptance by potential users, to identify purchasers of the technology, such as clinicians, municipalities or businesses.

So far, four projects have been awarded TITA grants under the current NJIT program.

The Center for Translational Research, directed by Dhawan, will serve as a hub for commercialization training and development on campus and will organize workshops, forums and demonstration events to draw external collaborators, advisers and investors.

The center includes such facilities as the Microfabrication Innovation Center for making prototypes and the Microdevices Translational Research Center in the VentureLink complex. The latter will include patient beds for testing health care devices and an observation room for investors. Through the center, the grant will fund postdoctoral researchers who provide technical support to projects and students in NJIT’s Undergraduate Research and Innovation program.

The NSF award follows another major grant aimed at boosting the university’s research and innovation capabilities.

A team of biomedical engineers, chemists and biologists received $5.8 million from the National Institutes of Health to fund a biomedical research program designed to propel undergraduates into high-powered scientific careers focused on health care.