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Innovation Nurtured at Clarion Business Development Center

Thursday, September 18, 2014 @ 12:09 AM

Posted by Ron Wilshire

IMG_9380CLARION, Pa. (EYT) – Nearly $50,000.00 in grants were awarded last week for entrepreneurs in the first round of grants through the NWPA Innovation Support Program in a ceremony at the Gregory Barnes Center for Biotechnology Business Development at Clarion University.

(Photo: Four businesses were selected for grants in the first round of the NWPA Innovation Support Program though Clarion University.  Winners and those involved with the program are, left to right: Alex Parrish (4-Bond Advanced Materials), Clarion University President Karen Whitney, Benjamin Legum (Clarion University Applied Research), Carolyn Boxer Newhouse (DCED), Tyler Felker (Angel Anchors), Dr. William Barnes (Angel Anchors), Jake Loosararian (Gecko Robotics), and Jennifer Leinbach (DCED).)

Funded by the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED), the program is designed to help inventors and small businesses transform an idea into a product ready for the marketplace.  The program provides up to a $15,000.00 micro grant, business development support, applied research and manufacturing support, access to prototype and wet lab facilities, and exposure to long term funding such as venture capitalists and local angel investors.

The winning companies and grants featured at the ceremony included:

  • Dr. William Barnes, Angel Anchor, LLC (Clarion County),  $10,000.00
  • Alex Parrish, 4-Bond Advanced Materials, LLC (Clarion County), $15,000.00
  • Donald Smith, TruCrown, Inc. (Crawford County), $7,500.00
  • Jake Loosararian, Gecko Robotics, LLC (Mercer County), $15,000.00

Carolyn Boxer Newhouse, DCED Deputy Secretary for Innovation and Investment, encourages these types of development and support of entrepreneurs.


Angel Anchor, LLC

IMG_9369“My business has to do with recreational boating,” said Dr. William Barnes. “For 20 years or more, I’ve sailed around Long Island Sound with my father who had a sailboat. One of the things we always worried about was anchoring at night. One of the extremely stressful parts is because you don’t know what is going to happen in the middle of the night. If two boats are anchored too close to each other and the wind shifts, the boats are going to swing, and if they’re too close to each other, they’re going to swing into each other. The boats are $50,000.00 or could be as much as $1 or $2 million ramming into each other at four o’clock in the morning and causing all kinds of damage, and in worst cases, the anchor lines can get twisted around and both of those boats end up going into the rocks.”

“This is a solution for people who worry themselves sick. We’re really kind of in the insurance business. I wanted to know how I could make a business out of this, and I really have to acknowledge the Clarion Small Business Development Center. This program is needed because there is a huge gap for entrepreneurs between the process of starting a business and way out in the future getting angel or venture capital. That’s where entrepreneurs really need help.”

Barnes also introduced Tyler Felker, a project associate and a senior CIS and Information System major at Clarion University.

4-Bond Advanced Materials, LLC.

IMG_9372“We are taking some technology that was the neglected child of a previous company and have been working on finding a place to recreate it for some time,” said CEO Alex Parrish. “We had some negotiations go almost to the end in a big commercial lab, and when that fell through, I started poking around for a place that would make more sense and was more flexible and easier to work with and here we are. We’re going to be upstairs (in the Barnes Center), so we’re going to spend this money here recreating the ability to create what we had before and then improving it to make a thin film of diamond. Not gemological but for industrial and other applications. Diamond is a material that is very extreme in all of its characteristics.”

“A thin film of diamond is an electrical insulator, but also a thermal conductor. It’s a way to wick away the excess heat. For example, your laptop is so hot because the processor is burning. It spreads heat but doesn’t short out the electric connections. Another completely different approach is it’s also a very smooth surface impact, chemical, and wear resistant, so you can coat engines, a piston, and a cylinder. We have a million other ideas, but we think this plant is going to give us an opportunity to recreate the process, make the material, coat some things, prove we can do it, and we are very confident that we could expand, attract funding, hire staff, and basically have the research and laboratory scale production lab here and license out the technology and move on. We’re very excited about this, and we’re currently located virtually, but we’re relocating here.”

Gecko Robotics, LLC  

IMG_9366“We’re a startup that just started doing some innovation related to coal plant technology,” said Gecko President Jake Loosararian. “We’re trying to solve a problem with current inspections of coal-fired boilers by humans who set up scaffolding on boilers. Because of human liability, drastic costs, and inaccuracies of the current method, we’re developing a technology that will be able to do thickness inspection using ultra sound with a robotic solution and hopefully be able to save power plants millions of dollars each year, and that will trickle down and save more each year.  We’re currently out of Hermitage.  We’re very thankful for the support.”

TruCrown, Inc.

Donald Smith was not present at the ceremony, but the following information was obtained from the company website.

“At TruCrown, our goal is to ensure your business remains highly regarded, highly competitive—and highly profitable. Utilizing our DMG Ultrasonic robotic 5-axis technology, we have the capability to mill only the highest quality, most-precise dental prostheses available.”

Clarion University’s Applied Research and Intellectual Property Development (CARPID)

IMG_9374           Benjamin Legum, a Clarion University Assistant Professor and CARPID Director, said Clarion University offers valuable assistance to firms needing technical assistance.

“CARPID has conducted contract research for nine companies over the past four years and supervised over 30 internships in biology, chemistry, physics, computer information systems, marketing, business,” said Legum.  “We also provide grant writing support, patent development, and manage the Innovation Laboratories at Clarion University.”

The innovation laboratories are available to any of the companies participating in the NWPA Innovation Support Program and include 2, 500 Sq. Ft. shared facilities designed for academic and industrial integration. The facilities offer two proprietary laboratory spaces in conjunction with communal laboratories and equipment for industrial clients, according to Legum.

The laboratories include a Class 10 clean room, CNC Mill, 3D Printer. Environmental scanning electron microscope, Deconvolution fluorescent microscope, Scanning probe microscope, Chemical and biological hoods, Vivarium, Tube furnace, High Pressure Liquid Chromatography (HPLC), Freeze Dryer, and -86⁰C Freezer.

The Clarion University Small Business Development Center and the Clarion County Economic Development Corporation are also housed in the Barnes Center located at 330 North Point Drive, in Trinity Point, near I-80, Exit 62.

Additional information on the NWPA Innovation Support Program is available at


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