The Neutrino Donut – Entrepreneurship Advisory Programs – Italy and USC

The Neutrino Donut recently completed multiple sessions with startups assisting them in understanding the markets for their technologies. Multiple startups from Italy with energy and high tech ideas discussed their ideas and programs. At USC, we met for the third consecutive summer, with a group of high school students who spent the summer developing their business.

The Neutrino Donut – Korea – Technology Commercialization Projects

The Neutrino Donut completed technology reviews for several Korean companies who are seeking US entry strategies. The challenge for the companies is the commitment to enter the US market. More importantly, the challenge for these companies is the major Korean companies (Samsung, Hyundai) are seeking to move their supply lines to cheaper countries, such as Viet Nam.

The Border Wall – A source of energy

Bold Plan? Replace the Border Wall with an Energy–Water Corridor

Building solar, wind, natural gas and water infrastructure all along the U.S.–Mexico border would create economic opportunity rather than antagonism

Bold Plan? Replace the Border Wall with an Energy–Water Corridor
Credit: Getty Images

Here’s an idea: Instead of an endless, inert wall along the U.S.–Mexico border, line the boundary with 2,000 miles of natural gas, solar and wind power plants. Use some of the energy to desalinate water from the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific Ocean and ship it through pipelines to thirsty towns, businesses and new farms along the entire border zone. Hire hundreds of thousands of people from both countries to build and run it all. Companies would make money and provide security to safeguard their assets. A contentious, costly no-man’s-land would be transformed into a corridor of opportunity.

Crazy? Maybe—or maybe not. History is full of ideas that initially sounded wacky yet ended up changing society.

The idea is more than a pipe dream. A consortium of 27 engineers and scientists from a dozen U.S. universities has developed a plan. Last week they delivered it to three U.S. representatives and one senator. “Let’s put the best scientists and engineers together to create a new way to deal with migration, trafficking—and access to water. These are regions of severe drought,” says Luciano Castillo, a professor of energy and power at Purdue University who leads the group. “Water supply is a huge future issue for all the states along the border in both countries.”


There is a lot you can do with coal. The Neutrino Donut is working with several groups on identifying rare earth metals from coal, for example. A second challenge is the retraining of workers. From the WaPo (and this was buried in the story):

The WaPo had an article on the GM plant shutdowns in the Midwest. The key takeaways were the jobs aren’t coming back, people are waiting for the jobs to come back, and only 30% of the people eligible for training took training. The training is technical, free and has a stipend. The workers said they were too old and the course material was too hard and they dropped out after a week. One guy couldn’t figure out how to install a flash drive.

Retraining is a complex process. Getting people to change everything is not an easy task. A utility I spoke with noted they did not see these issues when they retrained – the workers will still at the same company and had the same “home.”

From Axios:

Energy Secretary Rick Perry suggested Wednesday that he hasn’t given up on finding ways to help economically struggling coal-fired and nuclear power plants, even though efforts to date haven’t taken flight.

Why it matters: Competition from cheap natural gas, renewables and other forces are leading to ongoing closures of coal-fired plants, and could prompt more nuclear facilities to shutter in coming years.Show less

  • The administration argues this threatens grid security and reliability, although a range of experts dispute the claim.

Perry said the country needs a “stable foundation of electric power that is un-interruptible” and that he wants more discussion.

  • “I’ve thrown a lot of jello over at the wall on this one trying to find some solutions that we can all, or at least a majority of us can get behind to support that,” he told reporters.
  • “We are looking for the answers to a question that vexes us,” he said in a press conference at CERAWeek.

Where it stands: Early last year, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission unanimously rejectedPerry’s push for big changes to wholesale power market rules that would guarantee revenues for some coal-fired and nuclear plants.

Since then, the administration has mulled options for using sweeping national security powers to help plants stay open, but it hasn’t gone anywhere.

Commercialization in the Grant Process

The Neutrino Donut recently completed a series of review sessions on grants for SBIR, DoD, and a few other places. Commercialization has been a weakness in the process. Let’s review.

  1. You need commercialization experts on your team. People who have taken a product into the marketplace. Not your friend’s nephew and definitely not the grad student who worked on the project.
  2. Who are your customers? Who is going to buy your product? If you have to resell them the product next year, will they be around to buy it? Also, a minor point – do they have money to spend on you?
  3. Who are you selling to? Who approves the sale? Where is purchasing in this process? Who can veto your sale?
  4. How do you create ongoing revenue? Selling to someone once and moving on does not work.
  5. Have you considered partnerships with people who already work with your targeted customers?
  6. Do you need product certifications, such as security with the Amazon Cloud product? This is where the partnership discussion above comes in handy.
  7. Do you have IP that can be acquired?
  8. Do you have any competitors? Don’t forget – doing nothing is a competitor.

Find a consulting organization who can help you with the commercialization part. That would be us at The Neutrino Donut, LLC.

Secrets from the Review Panel – February 2019

The Neutrino Donut recently completed several review panels for grants for DoD and NIH. Here are a few things to remember:

  1. There is a large group of people in the room. Each person has different expertise and different expectations on evaluations. All members comment on specific aspects (science, statistics, commercialization, regulator planning, ethics, user reactions) and rate the overall process.
  2. Score variants between members are generally limited, based upon the discussion. These score variants are discussed as well to understand the issues.
  3. Conflict of interests are aggressively managed.
  4. The suggestion a competing grant winner was able to block your idea is simply not true. There are too many people in the process. Your idea didn’t make it on merit.
  5. There are a limited number of winners. Even if you have a good idea, that may not be enough. You have to be a winner amongst the winners.
  6. We read the applications. Boy, do we ever. We recognize cutting and pasting from other grants, spelling mistakes, incorrect references, and so forth. Grant language which may not be appropriate which has been copied is noticed. It may not hurt, but it doesn’t help. See the winner amongst winner comment above.
  7. Read the feedback. A lot of time goes into the writing and it is designed to provide guidance on re-submitting your grant. You have a group of serious experts giving your idea feedback.
  8. On the DoD grant review, vets are included in the sessions. Their comments have been key to the success of a grant. So, talk to the consumers of your product about your idea. Meditation is a great idea until you are trying to implement the program to someone who is on active duty in a battle zone. Patients can’t smoke at Walter Reed. Prosthesis which do not have ball bearing problems are a good thing. Things I learned recently…
  9. As the commercialization expert, this is a weak spot for grant writers. Get someone who has taken similar technologies to the marketplace to be part of your team. Not a family friend, but a real player. Universities are filled with entrepreneurship programs.
  10. Figure out the IP early on and decide how you want to manage the process. Don’t write it off.
  11. Look at commercial opportunities for your technologies. The concussion marketplace has many opportunities outside the military. These commercial relationships will advance your research and provide more funding. What is not to like?

DoD Review Panel

The Neutrino Donut recently completed a stint as a member of a grant review panel for defense medical technologies. The focus was on mild traumatic brain injuries and attempts to diagnose the condition in soldiers as well as athletes.

There have been extensive gains in this space and a strong focus on identifying patients earlier and seeking treatment. Concussions, which were ignored in the past, are recognized as part of long term treatment issues for many members of our population.

New technologies in understanding the brain, helmet and similar technology support, and treatment programs were all part of the process.

Department of Defense Grant Review Programs

The Neutrino Donut is part of a group of scientists who are evaluating technologies for DoD funding. We are providing evaluation services relating to commercialization of these opportunities. This is our third review panel and we are able to provide insights to our clients on process and commercialization processes within grant programs.