by Don Dodson, Champaign-Urbana News Gazette
CHAMPAIGN –Two University of Illinois professors who developed a new form of lighting were in the spotlight Tuesday, along with other local entrepreneurs and businesspeople. Gary Eden and Sung-Jin Park, founders of Eden Park Illumination, received the Innovation Discovery Award at the Innovation Celebration awards ceremony at the Forum at Carle.
Their technology makes possible microplasma lamps – a low-cost, energy-efficient, lightweight form of lighting.
Eden Park Illumination, which licensed the technology from the UI, is about a year away from formally introducing its products, Eden said.
The company, headquartered in Somerset, N.J., employs eight full time at its research and development center in Champaign.
Other award winners Tuesday included:
Technology Transfer Award
Philip Krein, Patrick Chapman, Brian Kuhn and Jonathan Kimball, founders of SmartSpark Energy Systems.
SmartSpark developed a micro-inverter that can convert direct-current electricity from solar panels into alternating current that can connect with the power grid.
SmartSpark, which employs about 20 in the UI Research Park, recently expanded to Austin, Texas.
Krein is the chairman, Chapman the chief technology officer and Kuhn and Kimball senior engineers.
Entrepreneurial Excellence in Management Award
Tim Hoerr, chief executive officer of Serra Ventures and Cbana Laboratories.
Cbana Labs develops adsorbents and microanalytical devices for capturing and analyzing pollutants, drugs and other dangerous materials. Serra Ventures offers assistance in mergers, acquisitions, capital formation, organization and strategy.
From 2001 until last July, Hoerr was chief executive officer of iCyt, a company that makes instruments for cytometry.
Hoerr credited “purpose, principles and people” as ingredients for success.
Longevity through Discovery Award
Mark Laufenberg, president of PowerWorld, whose products make power system analysis and visualization more powerful and efficient.
“We are currently working on the release of version 14 of our flagship product, PowerWorld Simulator,” Laufenberg said, adding that about 500 customers in 45 countries have bought the product.
The company also produces PowerWorld Retriever, a real-time visualization and simulation tool for power system control rooms.
The company employs about 10 full time and a couple part time. Five have doctorates, and a sixth is joining next month, he said.
Laufenberg started the company in 1996. He told himself, “I’ll give it six months, and if I can pay the rent, I’ll keep on doing it.” Three years later, he concluded it would last.
Economic Development Impact Award
Cathy Singer, engineering director of Yahoo’s Champaign office. Yahoo came to town in August 2007 and hired more than 100 employees from Motorola, which was closing its office in the research park.
“Things are going well,” said Singer, who was unable to attend the ceremony. “We have approximately 85 employees. The employees at Yahoo really enjoy working there, and Yahoo has found the site to be successful.”
Student Startup Award
Ryan and Ashton Clark, UI students who founded 247mixtapes.com, Ludakicks.com and AlphaPMS.com.
The twin brothers started Web-based businesses when they were in high school
and have started more than a dozen such companies.
“Our mother always told us, ‘Tomorrow is determined by the choices you make today,’” Ashton Clark said.
Social Entrepreneurship Award
Amy Armstrong, founder of Larkin’s Place at the Y, envisioned as an all-inclusive
playspace that can be used by developmentally disabled children, such as her daughter, Larkin.
Armstrong has enlisted other parents, the Champaign Park District, the YMCA, the Junior League, Christie Clinic and corporations to help establish the facility.
Entrepreneur Advocacy Award
Laura Hollis, clinical professor of business administration at the UI, who has held positions at both the Technology Entrepreneur Center and the Academy for Entrepreneurial Leadership.
Hollis successfully nominated the UI for a cross-campus entrepreneurship award.
“It’s important to think like an entrepreneur even if you’re not an entrepreneur,” Hollis said. “Look at problems as opportunities, dare to come up with solutions to problems .. and not be daunted by failure”
Tuesday’s ceremony was coordinated by the Champaign County Economic Development Corp., in partnership with the UI Technology Entrepreneur Center, EnterpriseWorks, the Academy for Entrepreneurial Leadership and the Singleton Law Firm.