3D Array Technology (3DAT) availed itself of CTNext’s SBIR training resources to successfully secure a grant and move forward toward commercializing its technology. COO Sibo Wang tells us how the CTNext SBIR program helped the company achieve SBIR success and ultimately land its first customer:
3D Array Technology is a startup company dedicated to innovation of functional materials for environmental applications. We are focusing on developing, producing and selling high-efficiency, low-cost heterogeneous catalysts to serve all types of catalytic process–related industries.
When was the company founded? How many employees, customers, etc.?
The company was founded in 2013. Currently, we have five people working in the company. We are focusing on recipe optimization and product development for the catalysts. Recently, we received a DOE SBIR Phase I grant to develop an industry-relevant manufacturing process for heterogeneous catalysts. Our customers are emissions aftertreatment system integrators. The end users of our products will be automobile makers and catalytic process–related industries.
What compelled you to pursue an SBIR grant?
3D nanostructure array technology is the core of 3D Array Tech. It was invented by Puxian Gao’s research group at the University of Connecticut. After eight years of fundamental research, they believe this technology is ready for commercialization. We decided to use this technology to improve the environment and benefit society. The SBIR grant enables small businesses like ours to explore the potential of this technology and provides the incentive to profit from its commercialization. The SBIR grant is like a guide that leads you to success, step by step. Without any doubt, pursuing an SBIR grant was the best option for taking the first step.
How would you describe the process?
Pursuing an SBIR grant is a training process. Most researchers, like myself, have limited knowledge of the market. Sometimes the things you are studying are not the real needs of the market. So I think pursuing an SBIR grant helps with the process of changing your focus from fundamental research to gaining an understanding of the market.
How did you come to connect with CTNext?
I was connected with CTNext through the UConn TIP program, which always encourages us to attend events held by CTNext that may offer various opportunities.
In what way did CTNext help you prepare and ultimately secure SBIR funds?
I attended an SBIR conference through the CTNext program. Guests from different fields were invited to talk about the skills needed for applying for an SBIR grant. By attending the conference, I gained an understanding of what a good proposal should look like and what kind of proposal the reviewers typically want to see. Perhaps most importantly, the CTNext program helped me learn how to develop a reasonable commercialization plan by talking with professionals at the conference. This program helped a lot in preparing the application proposal.
3DAT just landed its first customer in China, which is a big milestone for us. This customer will exclusively sublicense our technology for catalyst manufacturing. It’s a demonstration that our technology has been accepted in this field, and we are excited for it to be applied practically for the first time.