Wayne State University licenses technology to new start-up

Stefanie Botelho's picture
Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The office of the vice president for research at Wayne State University announced today the finalization of a license agreement with a new start-up company, Detroit Materials, Inc., for a Wayne State University patented portfolio of high-strength low-alloy steels and cast irons for demanding applications in the defense, off-highway, tooling and automotive industries.

Although there have been great advancements in the development of high-strength steel, there continues to be a need in various industries for structural components that are lighter and stronger, and have improved energy efficiencies, reduced emissions and pollution, increased safety and decreased production costs, particularly in the automotive industry.

A team of researchers led by Susil Putatunda, Ph.D., professor of chemical engineering in Wayne State University's College of Engineering, have been working to create advanced materials with high-yield strength, fracture toughness and ductility. Their efforts have led to the development of a portfolio of bainitic steels and austempered ductile irons exhibiting an excellent combination of mechanical currently only available in the form of highly alloyed and costly exotic steels.

Putatunda's research was initially funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation (award number 0854962), and more recently received funding from the New Economy Initiative's (NEI) Technology Development Incubator Program aimed at accelerating feasibility studies necessary for licensing, industry partnerships and start-up opportunities. The NEI funding opened the door to a license agreement, and the birth of Detroit Materials, Inc.

The company was founded by Pedro Guillen in his role as entrepreneur-in-residence for the Detroit Technology Exchange, with direct financial and administrative support from Detroit Innovate, a new venture fund based in southeast Michigan. Guillen, Chief Executive Officer of Detroit Materials, specializes in corporate innovation strategy and new technology commercialization.

He has over 15 years of product development and innovation experience in automotive, defense, off-highway and clean energy markets. He has led engineering teams developing proof of concept technologies and demonstrator vehicles for the Department of Defense, as well as founded two successful start-ups.

"I am excited about the launch of Detroit Materials and the many opportunities that this new company will have to advance industries utilizing high strength steel," said Hilary Ratner, Ph.D., vice president for research at Wayne State University. "We have begun to reap the benefits of the changes that we've put in place in technology commercialization over the last several years, and the translation of Dr. Putatunda's research into the marketplace is just one example of the great things happening at Wayne State University."