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Nick Kellaris, a materials science and engineering graduate student, left, and mechanical engineering graduate student Eric Acome look over liquified artificial “muscle” or soft robot material in the Keplinger Research Lab. Photo courtesy of Glenn Asakawa / University of Colorado Boulder.
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Six Boulder-based startups with ties to the University of Colorado Boulder were recognized for their innovation with $1.5 million in grants from the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade.

The Advanced Industries Accelerator Program provides funding and job training programs in addition to the grants, which are meant to help grow and sustain Colorado industries like advanced manufacturing, aerospace, bioscience and electronics.

The winners — Artimus Robotics, Bioloomics, Earable, Emergy, Longpath Technologies and New Iridium — all worked with the Venture Partners program at CU Boulder to turn their research into a business.

The grants validate the Venture Partners program, said managing director Bryn Rees, and show the quality of startups coming from the campus.

“I think that what differentiates the companies coming out of the university is that they’re built on deep tech. They’re very cutting edge in science and in engineering and they’re trying to answer some really big questions and disrupt whole industries,” Rees said. “These are potentially really impactful companies. It’s not just another app for your phone.”

Artimus Co-Founder Tim Morrissey said grants from the state have enabled the company to stay in Colorado, get its own facility, focus on manufacturing and to generate traction in the market.

Artimus Robotics creates artificial muscles for robots that stretch and move. The concept was based in a CU Boulder research lab from 2015-2018, Morrissey said, and spun out into a company in 2018.

“When traditional robots are used, their motions are based on rigid motors, metal and gears,” Morrissey said. “We’re taking a wildly different approach and taking inspiration from biology. We’re trying to make things move using soft, stretchable and movable materials, because that’s what evolution has taught us works.”

For New Iridium, the grants have helped with market and business development, said Chief Operating Officer and co-founder Brent Cutcliffe.

New Iridium is based on the work of researchers Chern-Hooi Lim and Garret Miyake that shows how using light, instead of heat, can dramatically speed up the process of developing new pharmaceutical drugs.

Lim is New Iridium’s founder and chief executive officer. Miyake is a co-founder and scientific advisor.

“It’s going to allow pharmas to discover new drugs they never could conceive of using chemical methods,” Cutcliffe said.

Venture Partners helps researchers explore the commercial possibilities of 150-200 new inventions every year, Rees said, but not all of those become start up companies.

“I think these six are a great example of people who have taken advantage of those resources,” he said.

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