What is MIRTA?
MIRTA is an accelerator program designed specifically to develop UMaine research innovations into marketable new products and services that may lead to new job creation and grow Maine’s economy.
MIRTA applies the accelerator model used in the startup world for technology transfer projects in the university ecosystem. During this intensive 16-week program, participants are guided through market analysis, intellectual property analysis, and business model development. After participation in MIRTA, teams have a roadmap with clear pathways that could include creation of a startup, licensing to a new or existing company or direct engagement with the end user.
From the 13 teams in the first three MIRTA cohorts, five new startups have been formed, six patents have been filed or issued, and the teams have collectively raised more than $2 million in external funding and prototype sales to support ongoing commercialization. Companies that have been formed after participation in MIRTA include Neuright, winner of the $25,000 David Shaw prize at the statewide Top Gun accelerator program in 2019, and UNAR Labs recently selected to join the first cohort of the Roux Institute Startup Residency Program.
Current Cohort (MIRTA 4.0)
Faculty lead: Andrei Alyokhin, Ph.D., professor of applied entomology, University of Maine School of Biology and Ecology
Supporting team members: Patrick Erbland, Ph.D., a UMaine alumnus and research associate at the Alyokhin laboratory, and Matthew Moyet, a UMaine alumnus and Ph.D. student at the Alyokhin laboratory
External partner: Ryan Beaumont, principal engineer, RBC Expert Engineering
HI-Lucens seeks to develop and commercialize bioconversion technology to produce animal feed from organic waste using black soldier fly larvae. Drawing on ongoing research, the team is exploring a scalable model to capitalize on the black soldier fly larva’s ability to consume food waste (specifically waste potatoes) and convert it into biomass rich in protein and oil. Nourished by feeding on the waste products, the larvae are harvested when they reach full size and then dried and processed for use in aquaculture and poultry feed.
Consulting engineer Ryan Beaumont is providing support to create an automated modular system for recycling food waste into valuable animal feed ingredients using this remarkable insect species.
Faculty lead: Jim Weber, Ph.D., DVM, associate professor of animal and veterinary sciences, University of Maine School of School of Food and Agriculture
Supporting team members: Senior undergraduate students Raleigh Toussaint (pre-veterinary sciences) and David Flewelling (biological engineering), as well as University of Maine entrepreneur in residence John Branscombe, Jr.
External partner: Brian McLaughlin, CEO and founder, Amplify Additive
BioAnchor is exploring the commercialization potential of medical-grade titanium foam produced through additive manufacturing, a patented technology developed at UMaine. This technology has the potential to improve the attachment strength and reduce infection rates associated with medical, veterinary and agricultural implants. University of Maine entrepreneur in residence John Branscombe, Jr. will provide project management support, and the team is working with Scarborough, Maine-based Amplify Additive to design and produce implant prototypes for testing and commercialization. Brian McLaughlin, CEO and founder of Amplify, is interested in collaborating with UMaine on MTI and SBIR grant proposals that have the potential to create new jobs in medical device manufacturing in Maine.
Nature Nano Wrap
Faculty lead: Denise Skonberg, Ph.D., professor of food science, University of Maine School of Food and Agriculture
Supporting team member: Suriya Prakaash Lakshmi Balasubramaniam, Ph.D. candidate in food and nutrition sciences
Nature Nano Wrap seeks to develop and commercialize a biodegradable, antioxidant, and antimicrobial film made from renewable cellulose nanofibers for use in food packaging. Aiming to help combat global plastic pollution, the team recognizes a need for an eco-friendly moisture-resistant film suitable for packaging and preserving high-fat foods such as cheeses, sausages, and nut butters. Drawing on ongoing research, the team uses naturally occurring plant compounds to reduce water absorption and add antimicrobial and antioxidant properties to a CNF-based film.
Faculty lead: Justin Dimmel, Ph.D., assistant professor of mathematics education and instructional technology, University of Maine College of Education and Human Development
Supporting team members: Eric Pandiscio, Ph.D., associate professor of mathematics education, University of Maine College of Education and Human Development, and senior undergraduate student Emma Reedman (biology, pre-med with minors in psychology and interdisciplinary studies)
External partner: Mitch Stone, director of Orono Parks & Recreation / deputy director of Community Development
Team SunRule is developing a mathematical manipulative that uses sunlight to model multiplication. They are refining the designs for two versions of the device, one that could be used by individual students in K-12 math classes and, through a partnership with Mitch Stone (Orono Parks & Recreation/Community Development), one that could be installed in outdoor spaces where children and families gather (e.g, parks, playgrounds, nature trails). Unlike most currently available manipulatives, the SunRule represents multiplication as a continuous growth operation. This is important because it can provide a physical representation for the multiplication of fractions, a subject that is perpetually challenging for students from elementary school through high school. Especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, teachers and parents are looking for rich, screen-free math activities. The SunRule and its inherent connection to the outdoors is one means to meet that demand.