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WSU Ventures facilitates unique partnership with Denver-based startup

WSU Ventures facilitates unique partnership with Denver-based startup

Thursday, April 7, 2016

A unique partnership between Wichita State University and a Colorado-based aircraft seat startup is providing a cost-effective alternative for product development.

Molon Labe Designs, an aircraft interiors firm, began working with Wichita State University's National Institute for Aviation Research (NIAR) in mid-2014 involving a new aircraft seat designed to make passengers more comfortable, reduce travel time and save airlines money.

Because of that positive experience working with NIAR, Molon Labe CEO Hank Scott knew he also wanted to work with NIAR for certification of the company's new Side-Slip Seat.

“We knew NIAR was an industry leader in certification," said Scott. "But we thought it was just a place you show up at on testing day."

Then Scott and his team came for a visit and met NIAR research scientist and technical director Gerardo Olivares. They were impressed by the immense digital modeling and analysis capability and scope of knowledge possessed by Olivares and his team, and the relationship with NIAR went from testing for a couple of days to a year-long commitment.

Scott knew the expanded relationship with NIAR was necessary, but wasn't quite sure how he was going to afford it. That's where WSU Ventures came in.

WSU Ventures is the university's technology transfer organization. It exists to link industry, entrepreneurs and investors with university resources and technology.

Scott entered into an agreement with the WSU Investments Corp., and in exchange for a small share in Molon Labe Designs, he gained the capabilities and expertise of the university at a fraction of the usual cost.

WSU Ventures is industry's link to the university, said Mark Torline, director of WSU Ventures.

"We want businesses, entrepreneurs and start-ups to come to us whether they need assistance with prototype or concept development, testing or product research," he said "We can link them with the resources they need."

"We wanted the lightest strong seat we could achieve," said Scott. "And we're achieving that because of NIAR's capabilities.

We're also going to be well-ahead of our competition when it comes to responding to customers because of NIAR's work. Their expertise has extended the commercial viability of our product, and the long-term payoff is going to be phenomenal."

The Side-Slip Seat debuted at the Low Cost Carriers Congress in London in September. Since then, it has gained praise and recognition from the Denver Post, Time Magazine, CBS This Morning, USA Today and the LA Times.

The seat is on schedule to begin physical testing at NIAR this summer.

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Contact: Tracee Friess, NIAR director of communication, 316-978-5597 or tracee.friess@wichita.edu.

Wichita State University
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