Department of Climate and Space Sciences and Engineering in the College of Engineering at the University of Michigan


Professor Renno and Harvey Elliott discover entrepreneurship

Posted: September 4, 2012

Professor Renno and Harvey Elliott discover entrepreneurship

By Nicole Casal Moore

Dream big. That's the main lesson that the National Science Foundation's Innovation Corps program taught Harvey Elliott, an AOSS doctoral student and one of the more than 80 inventors and entrepreneurs who participated in the eight-week program that culminated Thursday at U-M.

"We were in a niche market, but we learned to go for the big market," said Elliott, who is developing an electrostatic shock warning system with AOSS Professor Nilton Renno. "The fundamental technology remains the same, but our business model has changed significantly since we joined the I-Corps program."

The electrostatic shock warning system from the Charge Tracker team of Elliott, Renno and Tech Transfer mentor Dave Hartmann could save money in the electronics manufacturing industry where shocks can damage products. It also could potentially save lives in factories where flammable and explosive materials are made.

Renno and Elliott invented they system when they needed a way to measure electrostatic discharge in dust storms on Earth and Mars. They initially envisioned a specialized market, but I-Corps helped them see the broader landscape.

"We were looking at a hand-held wand that had a $300,000-a-year market. We realized that a bench-top unit could have a market of $30 million a year, and by 2017, $50 million," Elliott said.

Watch this video to learn more.

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