FRI AM News: 1915 Studios accelerator recruiting for next cohort; WisBusiness: the Podcast with Grady Buchanan, NVNG Investment Advisors

— Georgia-Pacific’s 1915 Studios accelerator program in northeast Wisconsin is recruiting startups for its next cohort, due to kick off in September. 

The program was launched last year by the Atlanta-based pulp and paper company in partnership with startup accelerator gener8tor. Georgia-Pacific has seven Wisconsin facilities spread across Green Bay, Oshkosh, Sheboygan and Neenah, and employs around 2,000 people in the state. 

“We really want to support the startup community in northeast Wisconsin,” Georgia-Pacific executive Dave Hahn said yesterday during the New North Summit at Lambeau Field in Green Bay. “We believe this will help attract and hold talent to this area. We also believe in giving back to the community by way of overall economic development.” 

As part of the free 12-week program, the company provides office space at its innovation center in Neenah and access to over 250 engineers and specialists at the facility. Other services include testing, fabrication services for prototypes, as well as engineering and design assistance, he said. 

Five startups have progressed through the program’s first iteration, which focused on sanitization products and services. Hahn spotlighted one of the program graduates, Roving Blue, which had several products in development before participating. 

The company has created a specialized method for dissolving ozone gas into water, according to an overview from program organizers. This treated water can then be used to purify drinking water and kill “unwanted microorganisms” on the surface of food like meat and produce, as well as other surfaces. 

“I’m happy to say that Georgia-Pacific and Roving Blue have continued to work together beyond the formal cohort,” he said. 

The current cohort of companies began last month, and 1915 Studios is actively seeking participants in Wisconsin and across the country, according to Hahn. 

“Another good reason to explore innovative ideas is that startup companies are so good at dreaming up, staying focused on bringing new products to the marketplace,” he said. “Entrepreneurs see problems and solutions through a unique lens. Georgia-Pacific seeks to learn from them and help them succeed when possible.” 

See more on Roving Blue: 

— The head of a Green Bay agriculture technology company says relying on in-state suppliers has proved to be a winning strategy amid global supply chain problems. 

Alex Tyink is founder and CEO of Fork Farms, which provides indoor growing systems designed to reduce the cost and space required for growing food. During yesterday’s conference in Green Bay, he explained what was at first a “philosophical decision” to support the local community ended up benefiting the company in the long run. 

Rather than going to Chinese suppliers and cutting sourcing costs by two-thirds, he said the company went with an in-state supply chain in its early phases. 

“People thought we were crazy … now I think we look like geniuses because we can get product and all the competition can’t,” he said. “So we’re just eating up market share right now; it’s going really great.” 

He also discussed the idea that enabled the company’s plant-growing system to drastically cut the cost of food production. By using reflective surfaces to capture more of the energy from a bright light source, he said the energy requirement for growing food indoors can be cut to less than half the industry standard. 

“That brought the cost of producing the food down to about a dollar a pound,” he said. “Now we’re actually able to produce farmer’s market quality, organic, beautiful produce at the same price that you’re paying for the iceberg, chopped romaine crap that’s grown way far away from here. And that, I think, is a gamechanger.” 

See more on the company here: 

— This week’s episode of “WisBusiness: the Podcast” is with returning guest Grady Buchanan, managing director for NVNG Investment Advisors. 

He discusses a new platform created by NVNG to increase visibility for startups in Wisconsin. Buchanan discusses the origins of the platform, what he hopes it will accomplish and how entrepreneurs can get featured on the site. 

NVNG is a venture capital “fund of funds” that invests in other funds looking for opportunities with Wisconsin startups. The +Venture Wisconsin platform was created as a spin-off from an existing internal platform used by NVNG to provide information to investors and recipient funds. 

“We have venture capital connections all around the country, all around the world, that want to look at Wisconsin,” he said. “And so we figured, you know what, instead of keeping it all closed, why don’t we very simply launch another version of this that just houses Wisconsin startup companies.” 

He noted the state has plenty of localized networks such as angel investor groups that know where startups can be found within the state. But he said most out-of-state investors and firms lack that knowledge. 

“So how can we make it easier — for not only the startup companies, but for also the out-of-market firms that want to invest in local companies here?” he said. 

Listen to the podcast here: 

See the full list of podcasts: 

— U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin says pending federal legislation aims to bolster U.S. supply chains for critical products such as microchips. 

Speaking at a event this week in Washington, D.C., the Madison Dem discussed the latest iteration of the bill, now called the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act. Originally touted as a way to keep the United States competitive with China through measures aimed at advanced manufacturing and technology research, it now has a focus on addressing pandemic-related supply chain issues. 

“The pandemic really showed if there is a global demand, and we do not produce it ourselves, that we can be left in short supply and that’s indeed what happened,” Baldwin said. 

She explained that at the start of the pandemic, major vehicle manufacturers estimated consumers wouldn’t be buying as many cars and reduced their orders for microchips. But when that prediction turned out to be wrong, “you were seeing car lines closing, plants on hiatus because they didn’t have the microchips they needed,” she said. 

She added that U.S. inventors created the first microchips, but the United States currently doesn’t produce them on an appreciable scale. Baldwin said that needs to change. 

Challenges like these led to the legislation going through changes — both in substance and name — as lawmakers saw a greater need for producing certain components and products without relying on other nations, Baldwin said. She’s part of a conference committee that oversees the bill’s development. 

“We’ve learned so many lessons, that we need — for critical components — to be able to produce our own,” she said. “If it concerns our nation’s security, safety or public health, we’ve got to be able to stand on our own two feet and produce it here.” 

Baldwin confirmed about $50 billion is included in the bill’s latest form for domestic production of semiconductor chips, which are used in a variety of household appliances and devices, agricultural equipment and vehicles. They’re also crucial for the medical field, defense applications and other industries that rely on advanced technology. 

She said federal lawmakers aim to get the bill passed by July 4. 

“It’s going to be a challenge but I think we can do it,” she said. “June 21 is the announced date by which we hope to have a conference report and then go through the floor process in each house, and hopefully pass it before we break for the holiday recess.” 

Listen to the event here, with Baldwin’s remarks on the bill between 5:50 and 16:00 in the recording: 

— The Advocate Aurora Research Institute’s latest annual report highlights a research project aimed at addressing racial inequalities in clinical trials. 

Veronica Fitzpatrick, a scientist with the institute, has received $119,910 from the Advocate Aurora Health Foundation through its COVID-19 Relief Fund for this effort. 

Her project will analyze the racial makeup of COVID-19 clinical trials conducted at Advocate Aurora study sites. These findings will be compared with overall diversity measures among the millions of patients that receive care through the health system. 

According to the group’s 2021 report, clinical trials for new therapies and medical devices have historically failed to include people of color, women, children and seniors. 

“This has led to serious patient safety issues, as some approved treatments were later found to negatively affect those in underrepresented groups because the treatment reacted with their bodies differently,” report authors wrote. “Most recently, the COVID-19 pandemic has amplified the need to improve health equity.” 

Along with the data analysis, researchers will be interviewing minority populations and other underrepresented groups to identify obstacles to joining clinical trials as well as opportunities for surmounting those hurdles. Fitzpatrick and her team will also be interviewing clinician researchers to better understand their perspective on this issue, the report shows. 

The report also highlights the research institute’s research impact in 2021, including a breakdown of topics for hundreds of research projects, clinical trials and related scientific studies published last year. 

See the full report here: 

Listen to an earlier podcast with Amit Acharya, the institute’s president: 

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