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Coronavirus Solutions Sought by UAF Center ICE

Dayne Broderson
Center ICE

A business and innovation office on the University of Alaska campus has pivoted this spring and summer to finding solutions for the coronavirus pandemic. The Center for Innovation, Commercialization, and Entrepreneurship is offering startup money and support to Alaskans with ideas to do things differently.

Normally, the Center for Innovation, Commercialization, and Entrepreneurship, or Center ICE for short, would be taking student and faculty ideas and try to turn them into real-world things… and eventually, into start-up businesses. But the pandemic has shifted the approach a bit.

“And what we did is we “pivoted” is the innovation term, but we had some funding opportunities available, for university people to say “I want to develop something that benefits the community” with the focus being the coronavirus pandemic.”

That’s Dr. Peter Webley, a research professor at University of Alaska Fairbanks. The money he is talking about is from the US Office of Naval Research, and immediately it funded a few coronavirus solution projects from UAF scientists and students.

But it also opened a door going the other way:

 “Turn it around and say, from the community, ‘what are your needs?’ and we can connect you with an expert from the university that can help develop a solution for you.”

Webley says some of those challenges that arose from the community have now been met with the federal funding, such as 3-D printed face masks, hand sanitizer for the hospital, and a UV sterilizer for Personal Protection Equipment.

The pandemic is throwing up a lot of challenges that need innovative thinking. One of them, Webley says, is how we interact online, digitally, instead of in-person.

“We’re gonna have to innovate; we’re gonna have to think of new ways to communicate.”

Center ICE is looking for ideas like this from the public and soliciting them on its website: Also listed there are Challenges from around the world – institutions offering prizes for great ideas to fight the pandemic. Center ICE will be contributing about $10,000 to Alaskans who win any of these challenges and will help with fleshing out the ideas.