UO's TEP has a tip-top winning formula, says national association

EUGENE, Ore. -- (April 13, 2011) -- The University of Oregon's Technology Entrepreneurship Program (TEP) was noted for its "winning formula" in the March newsletter of the University Economic Development Association, a national organization that focuses on university connections to regional economic development.

Partnered with a similar program at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory -- the Economic Development Office -- TEP was recognized for its ability to collaborate with national laboratories to spur innovation-based economic development led by motivated student entrepreneurs seeking to launch new businesses.

TEP, an interdisciplinary program, brings together students from the School of Law, MBA students from the Lundquist College of Business and graduate students and researchers from across disciplines. Students organize into four-person teams; each focuses on a real-world innovation born from research at the UO, another Oregon research university such as Oregon State and Portland State, or a TEP-collaborating organization, such as the PNNL in Richland, Wash., the National Energy Technology Laboratory in Albany, Ore., or Microsoft Corp. in Seattle. By the conclusion of TEP, the student teams have performed extensive market validation and business feasibility analyses for the opportunity they have identified, preparatory to writing business plans.

“The TEP program is distinctive in its focus on igniting the passion and building the expertise of Oregon’s next generation of entrepreneurs,” said Don Upson, TEP director. “Many UO students are absolutely transformed by their TEP experiences, and that transformation is immediately apparent to potential employers.”

The association's newsletter, published after the group's recent summit in Reno, Nev., noted that TEP has “pioneered a winning formula for turning-out top notch entrepreneurs who are prepared to meet the demands of their chosen industries and the challenges of getting a start-up profitable.” Established in 1976, the University Economic Development Association focuses on relationships between higher education institutions and economic development partners.

Among the success stories, the newsletter noted, is Perpetua Power Source Technologies Inc., founded by UO MBA graduate Jon Hofmeister in 2005. The company designs and manufactures cost-effective and easy-to-integrate renewable thermoelectric energy solutions for wireless sensors – essentially batteries that last forever.

At the meeting in Nevada, Hofmeister detailed how his MBA team at the UO developed a business plan around a patent-pending technology developed at PNNL called the Thermoelectric Ambient Energy Harvester. That plan developed while engaged in TEP won several national competitions and led to the company's launch. The company is based in Corvallis, Ore.

Most recently, Perpetua received a two-year, $500,000 Phase II Small Business Innovation Research grant from the National Science Foundation. Company scientists will use its Flexible Thermoelectric Film technology (patent pending) to develop a light, waterproof wristband locator system that could help health-care providers track Alzeimer's and nursing home patients.