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Ozark IC Wins State Seed Capital to Commercialize UV Detector

July 29th, 2015 by Rebecca Norman

ASBTDC client Ozark Integrated Circuits has received board approval for a $100,000 Seed Capital Investment Program award from the Arkansas Economic Development Commission’s Division of Science & Technology for the commercialization of its patent-pending ultraviolet detector.

Ozark IC's UV detector

Ozark IC’s UV detector

The UV detector offers unique advantages in extreme environments as well as normal commercial environments. Extreme environments include low temperatures (less than -50 degrees C), high temperatures (200 to 600 degrees C), and under high radiation.

Path to Commercialization: SBIR + SCIP

Ozark IC has the tools, design procedures, models, and expertise to create integrated circuits for extreme environments, plus relationships with manufacturers that make circuitry for extreme environments. The Fayetteville-based company has attracted interest from industry experts and potential customers who are supportive and highly interested in their progress and capabilities.

“What is missing, and is started to be addressed by this award, is the commercialization capacity,” said Ian Getreu, Ozark IC director of business development and strategic partnerships.

The company will use the state funding to create inventory and to develop marketing and sales information. By commercializing its novel UV detector, Ozark IC will not only generate revenue from sales but also develop the expertise needed to commercialize other products and establish itself in the marketplace.

Ozark IC won two NASA Small Business Innovation Research Phase I awards earlier this year for product research and development.

Ozark IC NASA SBIR award abstract: Highly Scalable SiC UV Imager for Earth & Planetary Science

Ozark IC NASA SBIR award abstract: SiC-based Microcontroller for High-Temperature In-Situ Instruments and Systems

“SBIR awards, especially Phase I, only support development of the prototype. SCIP assists with the commercialization of the products. SCIP is also interested in the development of Arkansas capabilities and industries. It is an essential component in the creation and nurturing of new industries,” said Getreu.

The Ozark IC team knew it was the right time to apply for SCIP funding after developing a working prototype of the UV detector and receiving interest from customers about commercial-ready versions.

Ozark IC team (from left): Dr. Ian Getreu, Dr. Matt Francis, and Jim Holmes

The team offered two pieces of advice for  innovative Arkansas companies seeking supplemental research funding such as SCIP:

  • Identify lower-risk sources of additional funding, like state programs, rather than diving right into angel funding
  • Indicate exactly how Arkansas will benefit from supporting your project

ASBTDC Assists with Market Analysis

Ozark IC’s UV detectors have applications for several markets ranging from 1) larger ones associated with water/food disinfection and automotive; 2) medium-sized ones for machine vision and fire detection and suppression, and 3) smaller ones found in UV astronomy and space exploration. To engage the customer market and determine addressable needs, Ozark IC contacts representative customers at every stage of product development about their needs and requirements.

The company will initially concentrate on the disinfection marketplace where UV lamps are used to kill pathogens. The UV detector will be used to verify that the lamps are working.

“Potential market sizes were determined with the help of the Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center, whose work is essential to our success,” Getreu said. “Rebecca Norman and the ASBTDC market research staff were essential in the development of our SCIP application by providing market size estimates, asking direct questions about the business plan, and reviewing the application for consistency and missing information. This is an incredible service that is especially useful for small companies that cannot afford a full-scale market analysis operation,” said Getreu.

Extreme Environment IC Capital of the World

The SCIP award will also allow Ozark IC to expand long-term opportunities for local talent in Northwest Arkansas, a region with the potential to be the Extreme Environment IC capital of the world.

The University of Arkansas at Fayetteville is training and educating upper-level engineering students in the area of Analog Mixed Signal (AMS) design for extreme environments. The university and Ozark IC personnel, among others, jointly authored a classic textbook in this engineering specialty. Unfortunately, students with expertise in the field often have to leave the state to find full-time employment.

Ozark IC hopes to retain expert engineering graduate students as employees after they serve as company interns.