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New publications from IC²-funded research on global climate policy

Joshua BusbyJoshua Busby, recipient of a 2017-2018 research award from the IC² Institute, has announced several publications stemming from his research on climate policy and the renewable energy industry in an international context.

Climate Leadership in Uncertain Times
By Joshua Busby and Nigel Purvis. Atlantic Council, September 2018.

Warming World: Why Climate Change Matters More Than Anything Else
By Joshua Busby. Foreign Affairs, July/August 2018.

Turning the Carbon Supertanker: Sectoral Feasibility of Climate Change Mitigation in China
By Joshua Busby, Xue Gao, and Sarang Shidore. Energy Research & Social Science, March 2018.

Still Shining? Our Third Annual Review on Solar Scale-up in India
By Joshua Busby and Sarang Shidore. Council on Foreign Relations, February 2018.

Busby is an Associate Professor at the LBJ School of Public Affairs and a Distinguished Scholar at the Strauss Center for International Security and Law at The University of Texas at Austin.

IC² Institute research awards are designed to stimulate research by tenured and tenure-track faculty across UT Austin and to promote thought leadership in the disciplines informing entrepreneurship theory and practice.

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BBR studies human trafficking in the wake of Hurricane Harvey

A team from the Bureau of Business Research and The University of Texas at Austin has received a National Science Foundation grant to explore ways to disrupt human trafficking supply chains related to Hurricane Harvey reconstruction efforts.

After Harvey hit Houston and the Texas coastal bend in 2017, causing $125 billion in damage, residents and officials quickly turned their attention to rebuilding homes, apartments and office buildings. This need for a large supply of quick labor after natural disasters can create conditions ripe for human trafficking, exploitation and coercion, especially in a low-wage, high-hazard industry such as construction.

The NSF awarded UT researchers a two-year competitive grant to help disrupt illicit supply networks by studying the patterns of exploitation endured by laborers in the construction industry after Harvey.

Matt Kammer-Kerwick of the Bureau of Business Research at UT’s IC² Institute will lead the study in collaboration with Eleftherios Iakovou at Texas A&M University. The team also includes researchers from UT’s Institute on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault in the Steve Hicks School of Social Work.

The study will inform policymakers, business owners and regulators so they can better combat human trafficking in the construction industry.

“People would want to know if their homes and local businesses are being rebuilt by workers who are exploited, coerced, or swindled out of their hard-earned wages. Reducing labor trafficking and exploitation makes Texas a fairer and better place to work and live,” said Noël Busch-Armendariz, director of the Institute on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault and professor of social work at UT Austin.

The award stems from an NSF-funded, interdisciplinary workshop at UT in 2017 that was led by Kammer-Kerwick and Busch-Armendariz and brought together scholars from operations research, data analytics and human trafficking to create a new and collaborative research agenda.

This interdisciplinary approach is novel for the study of human trafficking labor networks, said Bruce Kellison, director of the Bureau of Business Research.

“UT has expertise in both human trafficking and in complex mathematical modeling. It’s exciting to be moving the field forward and expanding its reach by identifying ways to disrupt these illicit networks that sustain human trafficking through this innovative collaboration of social scientists, engineers and mathematicians,” he said.

Human trafficking is often associated with the sex trade industry, but people are exploited in other sectors such as housekeeping, kitchen work and construction labor, working under conditions considered to be modern-day slavery — situations of force, fraud, or coercion. This landscape is often marked by a labor supply chain in which labor contractors, recruiters, or other middlemen are present and hazardous work is performed by easily replaced, migrant, or low-skilled workers.

“We saw employers exploiting workers after Ike, and we are seeing it again with Harvey. Wage theft is devastating for workers, many of whom live locally and are recovering from Harvey themselves,” said Marianela Acuña Arreaza, executive director of Fe y Justicia Worker Center, a group that plans to assist with the research and may be able to use the findings to inform their work.

As part of the study, researchers will interview laborers who worked in post-Harvey cleanup about their various jobs, related experiences and working conditions. This real-world evidence will then be used to model human trafficking and other forms of exploitation. The goal is to identify precise interventions that disrupt the illicit behaviors in the construction supply chain.

The $300,000 award to study the exploitation of laborers in the wake of Hurricane Harvey is one of nine grants that the NSF awarded this week to help disrupt illicit supply networks.

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flood image - AP
AP Photo/David J. Phillip

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IC² developing collaboration with Army Futures Command

On the occasion of the Activation Ceremony of the Army Futures Command (AFC) on August 24, 2018, the IC² Institute announced its plan to support the AFC mission by facilitating links to the Austin deep tech community.

The Army Futures Command is a major new initiative to modernize the Army’s technological capabilities and has been described by military officials as the most significant reorganization of the army in 45 years. Its mission is “to lead the future force modernization enterprise and deliver lightning-fast innovative solutions with leading talent, technology, and ideas.”

Austin was chosen as the headquarters for the AFC after a competitive process among 150 U.S. cities. The Army chose Austin in order to place the command in a center of innovation with ready access to talent, a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem, and leading academic research institutions.

“The IC² Institute’s history as an interface among industry, government, and The University of Texas at Austin makes it well placed to help AFC create and strengthen connections,” said Gregory Pogue, Interim Executive Director of the Institute. “IC² programs such as the Austin Technology Incubator constitute a ready-made pipeline to Austin’s deep tech startup community.”

The Activation Ceremony at the University of Texas System marked the official launch of the AFC and its new headquarters in Austin. The gathering of military and civilian officials was addressed by Secretary of the Army Mark T. Esper, Governor Greg Abbott, Senator John Cornyn, Austin Mayor Steve Adler, and General Mark A. Milley, followed by remarks from the Commanding General of the AFC, Lt. Gen. John Murray.

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IC² Institute board member Pike Powers with Lt. Gen. John Murray
IC² Institute board member Pike Powers with Lt. Gen. John Murray

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Austin-American Statesman covers ATI rebranding as “deep tech” incubator

In preparation for its 30th anniversary, the Austin Technology Incubator re-emphasizes focus on startups with complex technologies.

The Austin American-Statesman has published a feature story on ATI’s renewed connection with The University of Texas at Austin and the incubator’s unique role in the Austin startup ecosystem. The story also highlights ATI’s work with member companies EQO, H2Optimize/Hydroid, and Yotta Solar.

ATI director Mitch Jacobson explained what he means by deep tech. “We’re not doing things around parking apps and dating apps. We’re doubling down on deep tech, which involves trying to solve big problems with big solutions… That can be clean air, clean water, drugs around cancer or new carbon capture technology.”

The story was released Thursday on the 512Tech.com site and will be featured in this Sunday’s business section. Read it here.

To rebuild the brand, Austin Technology Incubator focuses on ‘deep tech’
Austin’s first tech incubator is working to raise its profile and play a larger role within UT and the Austin startup scene.
Lori Hawkins, Austin American-Statesman

conversation at ATI
Photo: Amanda Voisard, Austin American-Statesman

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ATI welcomes new member company New Dominion Enterprises

San Antonio startup NDE is commercializing breakthrough energy storage solutions.

New Dominion EnterprisesNew Dominion Enterprises, Inc. (NDE) announced this month that they have joined forces with IC²’s Austin Technology Incubator to help commercialize the next significant step forward in energy storage. New Dominion has negotiated an exclusive license with Idaho National Laboratory (INL) for the patents securing the inorganic electrolyte materials that will lead to more durable, longer lasting and safer lithium batteries.

These inorganic electrolyte materials were invented by NDE Chief Scientist and co-founder, Dr. Mason K. Harrup, while he was an Advisory Scientist at INL. NDE’s first product is an electrolyte “additive” that was fully developed and tested under a U.S. government contract. After forming New Dominion with his co-founder Jay Fraser, Harrup continued to innovate and subsequently NDE filed two additional patents covering company-owned intellectual property for a full replacement 100% inorganic electrolyte. These technologies address the heat-related downsides of organic electrolytes thereby improving useful life and reducing safety issues.

When asked how the relationship with ATI evolved, NDE’s president and co-founder, Jay Fraser explained: “This past fall ATI invited us to participate in a market research report as part of a Department of Defense program to explore market acceptance of new technology. Through that program we became interested in ATI and their Clean Energy initiative and began the application process to become an ATI member company. Affiliation with ATI, and through it, IC² and The University of Texas at Austin will help us backstop our management team with skilled mentors and advisors in some of the areas that a small company simply doesn’t have the resources to hire full time.”

Mitch Jacobson, Director of ATI, commented: “We recognize the value of the New Dominion deep technology solution and the potential breakthrough for longer lasting and safer lithium batteries and are excited to have them as a member company.” NDE’s inorganic electrolyte technology has significant market potential in consumer, industrial and defense applications, having been successfully tested in a Department of Defense sponsored program at INL. The application of the technology goes well beyond standard consumer products to also include larger power cells for electric vehicles and energy storage. NDE is now scaling to production levels and commercialization.

About NDE

New Dominion Enterprises is an early-stage technology company commercializing a suite of inorganic electrolyte materials for lithium batteries that will lead to more durable, longer lasting and safer lithium batteries. The first product, an additive, is fully developed and tested, and is in the process of being scaled up.

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ATI member EQO wins $100K top prize at inaugural MassChallenge Texas

Environmental Quality Operations (EQO)ATI member company Environmental Quality Operations (EQO) took home a $100,000 Diamond prize in the inaugural cohort of the MassChallenge Texas competition.

At the August 15 MassChallenge Texas Awards Ceremony, eight startups were awarded a total of $510,000 in equity-free cash prizes.

EQO uses molecular biology to protect lakes from invasive species. Its flagship product is a zebra mussel monitoring and detection service. Zebra mussels are an invasive species with numerous harmful and costly effects, from competing with native fish to clogging pipes in water systems.

EQO joined the Austin Technology Incubator in 2017. Prior to joining, EQO participated in ATI’s SEAL summer accelerator.

MassChallenge is a global network of zero-equity startup accelerators. MassChallenge Texas launched in April 2018 with a cohort of 84 companies.

For more information

EQO wins at MassChallenge Texas

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Glenn Robinson of XLr8 AP delivers keynote at Disrupt Asia in Sri Lanka

On August 11, Glenn Robinson of the IC² Institute gave the opening keynote at Disrupt Asia 2018 in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Glenn Robinson is Managing Director of the XLr8 Andhra Pradesh Technology Business Accelerator in Visakhapatnam, India, and Assistant Director of the IC² Institute.

In his keynote, Glenn offered perspectives on the development of the Austin “technopolis” and the importance of the collaboration represented by the Triple Helix model in creating a vibrant innovation ecosystem. He provided insights into the remarkable success of the XLr8 Accelerator, which has created the foundation of an innovation ecosystem in Andhra Pradesh state. XLr8 AP’s graduates have attributed ~$4M USD in new funding and revenue to the program and have created ~1,100 new jobs in the state. These outcomes represent >380% ROI on the state’s investment. He highlighted the power of innovation to transform tier 3 cities and provided examples of best practices for similar programs.

In addition to the keynote, Glenn was a panelist on a discussion of the role of government in creating a productive innovation ecosystem, and served as a judge in the final round of the Disrupt Asia Startup Battle. Finalists competed for LKR 300,000 and a trip to Oslo Innovation Week in Norway.

Disrupt Asia is Sri Lanka’s premier startup conference and innovation festival, organized by the ICT Agency of Sri Lanka since 2016. It convened experts from eleven countries to discuss topics such as public policy, security, venture investment, technology business startup creation and the development of a vibrant, balanced innovation ecosystem.

For more information

Glenn Robinson at Disrupt Asia 2018

Glenn Robinson at Disrupt Asia 2018

Glenn Robinson at Disrupt Asia 2018
Photo credit: README.lk CC BY-ND 4.0

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FASTForward graduate Mmmpanadas wins grand prize in HEB competition

Mmmpanadas, a 2016 graduate of the IC² Institute’s FASTForward program, won the grand prize in HEB’s “Primo Picks” competition for up-and-coming Texas-made food products.

The $25,000 grand prize is accompanied by an opportunity to introduce its products to the customers of the retail giant, which operates a chain of over 350 supermarkets across Texas.

Mmmpanadas was founded in 2008 by Kristen and Cody Fields, starting with a single food truck and soon expanding into a frozen food line for their gourmet empanadas. In 2016 they participated in IC²’s FASTForward program in order to develop the skills and strategies to scale up their business.

FASTForward is a 10-week training program for Austin-based small businesses designed to accelerate business growth and maximize profit. FASTForward was developed by the IC² Institute and supported by the City of Austin. Since 2016, 31 small Austin companies have participated in the program from numerous sectors – food, apparel, maintenance services, education, design, arts management, and more.

Kristen Fields credits FASTForward with a big part of Mmmpanadas’ success. “FASTForward gave me the room to learn and grow. And I don’t think I would have won if I hadn’t had the experiences granted to me via FASTForward,” she said.

Another recent FASTForward success story is Garbo’s, which was chosen Best Food Trailer by Austin Monthly readers in the annual Best of ATX poll. Garbo’s sells lobster rolls and other New England cuisine from its two trucks, and was a 2017 graduate of FASTForward.

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Hear ATI director Mitch Jacobson on the Up and Comers podcast

Listen to Austin Technology Incubator director Mitch Jacobson discuss the history and future of ATI on the Up and Comers podcast from foundingAustin.

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IC² Institute supports research on demographic change and entrepreneurialism in rural Japan

IC² researcher John W. Traphagan recently published an article entitled “Empty Houses, Abandoned Graves: Negative Population Growth and New Ideas in Neo-rural Japan,” which is part of his ongoing research related to rural entrepreneurialism in northern Japan.

The article explores some of the ways in which individuals living in a depopulating environment have created innovative responses to a rapidly changing demographic climate. Specifically, the article looks at examples of religious entrepreneurialism and, when faced with significant depopulation, the approaches some social institutions such as Buddhist temples have taken to maintain parishioners and how these approaches can change religious practices. Traphagan also considers how demographic change in the form of negative population growth can stimulate a generative process in which people innovate and adapt institutions to take on new forms and practices that contribute to the emergence of new cultural patterns.

As part of the same IC²-supported project, Traphagan has also published an article entitled “Entrepreneurs in Rural Japan: Gender, Blockage, and the Pursuit of Existential Meaning” in the journal Asian Anthropology (2017), that explores rural entrepreneurialism as it relates to the desire among business owners to find existential meaning in life.

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Ema or votive tablets. Photo by John W. Traphagan
Ema, or votive tablets. Photo by John W. Traphagan

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