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Kathy Faber, president of the 4th International Congress on Ceramics, talks about the 3rd Ceramic Leadership Summit track, which focuses on the unique issues entrepreneurs face. Credit: ACerS.

My friend Garry is a successful entrepreneur. “I couldn’t see how it could fail,” he once told me, then paused and added, “Of course, I do now.”

Entrepreneurs have to have that kind of confidence in their ideas and their abilities. According to a report by the Small Business Administration (pdf), small businesses (having less than 500 employees) employ about half of our nation’s private sector employees and generate about 43 percent of the private sector payroll. Over 65 percent of the new jobs created in the last 17 years were in the small business sector. The “high tech” sector hires 43 percent of the scientist/engineer/IT talent and produces an impressive 16.5 times more patents per employee than large firms do.

The report says that in 2009 about 550,000 small firms opened and about 660,900 closed. And, what about the survival rate of those half-million new firms? Statistically, 70 percent will make it to at least two years; 50 percent will make it to at least five years, 33 percent will be in business at least 10 years and 25 percent will be open 15 years or more.

What can an entrepreneur with a great idea today do to be part of the success story? Gary was lucky; he succeeded despite his ignorance. Are there ways an entrepreneur can outsmart the fickleness of luck?

These are the questions asked by the organizers of ACerS’ 3rd Ceramic Leadership Summit, which is being run as a one-day track as part of the ICC4 conference. Turning to someone who has “been there, done that,” they asked Richard Weber to organize the day-long symposium.

“We wanted to look at how do you extract value and turn an idea or a technology into a profitable business,” Weber said.

Weber knows this terrain well as twice-successful entrepreneur. His first company, CRI, developed optical glass products. After the company was sold, he started his current concern, Materials Development, Inc., which develops and manages R&D in advanced glasses and specialized process instrumentation.

The track, sponsored by Morgan Crucible, starts with the plenary lecture, “From Academia to Business,” by Delbert Day, which will highlight his experience converting his academic research into the successful specialty glass company, Mo-Sci Corporation.

The plenary will be followed by a moderated panel discussion. The panel members Weber recruited are themselves successful entrepreneurs or specialists that help entrepreneurs with their IP or funding. The panel discussion will be moderated by Tim Lavengood from the nearby Technology Innovation Center in Evanston, Ill.

Five panelists will join Day on the dais, such as Collin Anderson, whose company, Digital Innovations, is now a more than $200 million company. Alex Arzoumanidis, founder of Psylotech, is an early-stage start-up company that makes strain sensors. Jonathan Goodman is an IP attorney with Synthesis Intellectual Property, whom Weber describes as an “excellent advocate” for entrepreneurs. Leslie Millar from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign will speak to issues related to technology transfer, especially out of universities and into the private sector. Of interest to everyone, will be John Banta, a venture capitalist specializing in seed and early-stage technology.

Taking a page from the playbook of a typical innovator, the lunch hour will be a working lunch and plenary lecture delivered by Michael Murray of Morgan Crucible (UK) titled, “Emerging Ceramic Technologies: A Perspective from Morgan Crucible, Co.”

The afternoon session will be the following case studies on international technology transfer and entrepreneurship.

  • “Entrepreneurial Success of Balder LTD – Electro-optic Light Shutters for Eye-protection,” Janez Pirs, Jozef Stefan Institute, Slovenia
  • “Development and Commercialization of High Performance Ceramics for Oil and Natural Gas Recovery,” John Hellmann, Pennsylvania State University, United States
  • “From Technology Innovation to Industrialization: A Case of Ceramic Microbeads Based on Gel-bead Forming,” Jinlong Yang, Tsinghua University, China
  • “Neoker, A Spin-out of the University of Santiago de Compostela (Spain),” Victor Valcarcel, CTO and CEO, Neoker, S.L., Spain
  • “Thermoelectric Power Generation in Wide Temperature Region,” Ryoji Funahashi, National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science & Technology, Japan

Following the afternoon sessions, participants will be able to attend the Interactive Technology Forum that takes place from 3:30 to 6:30 pm.

I look forward to seeing you there.