Dow Chemical and UH Research Look To Collaborate

On Thursday, May 23rd, Dow Chemical representatives visited UH’s Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. Among these visitors were engineers from Dow’s production facilities in Freeport, TX and Midland, MI; with five members of UH's own Department of Chemistry present as well. The morning presentations were held in the Science Teaching Laboratories building, with a warm welcome from Randall Lee, Cullen Distinguished University Chair and NSM associate dean for research.

The aim of this visit was to find areas of mutual interest between UH research and Dow Chemical for future collaboration. Representatives from both UH and Dow gave compelling presentations at Technology Bridge to accentuate the strengths of each entity.

“The Technology Bridge is evocative of trying to bridge the gap between academic research and industry. We’re trying to get research that is performed in an academic setting and translate that into market,” explained Brian Shedd, the director of licensing for UH's Office of Technology Transfer and Innovation.

“We’re also one of only a handful of spaces in the city set up for wet lab capability,” Brian proclaimed to his impressed audience of chemical engineers.

Brian went on to extol the licensing advantages of companies housed at UH’s Technology Bridge. “Our rates are really good. Sixty dollars a square foot. If the company is licensing university technology that price drops significantly.”

The crowd of Dow engineers looked on quite inspired as Brian ended his presentation with numbers showing just how in-demand Technology Bridge has become, highlighting its blossoming prestige among tech companies.

“Fifty companies are now being put through the incubator and $74 million have been invested in Technology Bridge infrastructure,” he boasted. Following this presentation was Jerzy Klosin, a former research chemist and current fellow in Dow Chemical’s Core Research and Development facility. It was his turn to show why Dow would be an ideal fit among the Technology Bridge family of companies.

“Dow offers access to product development, high throughput research, global market channels, Dow brand equity, and access global manufacturing resources,” said Jerzy. “These are opportunities to which Dow brings a differentiating competitive advantage through partnering and investing,” he continued.

Jerzy went on to explain what exactly Dow was looking for in building connections to the emerging technology marketplace. “Dow aims to identify incubators and matchmaker programs that foster early-stage technology-focused business entities,” he explained. Jerzy continued to highlight how Dow employs research and commercial capabilities to support a comprehensive approach to opportunity identification.

“We are looking for opportunities, trends, and strategic connections with emerging technology organizations,” he said. “Connecting with Dow presents opportunity. We offer resources like global reach, channel access, proven technology scale-up, marketing, and commercialization expertise, for accelerated exploration.”

The afternoon ended with a tour of a number of chemistry labs at UH’s Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, led by Alamgir Karim, Dow Chair and Welch Foundation professor, director of the International Polymer and Soft Matter Center, and director of the Materials Engineering Program at UH. Alamgir walked us through the labs and explained in detail the current projects currently being worked on by his team of chemists.

The Dow engineers were particularly impressed by Alamgir’s team’s work on separating diesel fuel from water using a series of chemical processes. “We do a lot of solution processing through oven baking. You can get way better properties this way using a mixture of solvents, which we call the good, the bad, and the ugly. A good solvent, bad solvent, and mediating solvent,” Alamgir explained. Alamgir showed us the various machines, liquids, and equipment used in his team’s work on the surface relief structure of polymer films and nanoimprinting.

The chemists in the laboratories showed the Dow reps how UH takes care of its scientists by providing them with state-of-the-art equipment and extra space when requested. More importantly, the UH chemists showed what they can do with that equipment and space: innovate and enrich lives through chemistry."