Two WMU faculty engineers garner MEDC funding for early-stage work

Contact: Cheryl Roland
Professional headshot of Massood Atashbar, WMU.


LANSING, Mich.—A football helmet capable of assessing concussive-strength impact and 3-D printing of complex machined parts are the focus of work by two members of Western Michigan University's engineering faculty who are among five innovators around the state to win new funding form the Michigan Economic Development Corp. to develop early-stage technology projects.

Dr. Massood Atashbar, professor of electrical and computer engineering, and Dr. Pavel Ikonomov, associate professor of engineering design, manufacturing and management systems, were announced Nov. 8 as winners of support from the MEDC's ADVANCE Proof of Concept Grant Fund in its first round of funding of nearly $335,000 to five early-stage technology projects within universities across the state of Michigan.

Atashbar won support for his Impact Sensor and Rigid-flex Readout Electronic System. The project focuses on developing an electronics system that helmet manufacturers can offer that will automatically record and communicate the occurrence of potentially dangerous impacts.

Ikonomov won his funding for his 3-D Metal Device and Process. The technology allows customers to eliminate the steps and costs of machining parts on separate stations. The process enables the manufacture of 3-D printed parts with complex geometries without using support structures required with existing 3-D printing technologies.

The ADVANCE Proof of Concept Grant Fund opened last spring to provide funding opportunities with an incentive for researchers to engage with their university's technology transfer office to advance their technologies toward commercialization. Funds can be used to prove project concepts through a variety of opportunity development tasks, such as market studies, customer discovery efforts, detailed IP analysis and prototype development. Achievement of early milestones and market validation will also make projects more attractive for licensing and eligible for other statewide university commercialization programs.

Professional headshot of Dr. Pavel Ikonomov, WMU.


The fund is administered by Michigan State University with money from the MEDC's Entrepreneurship and Innovation initiative. Through this fund, the MEDC provides up to $40,000, with matching contributions from the universities, to support, advance and encourage early-stage technologies to engage with their university's technology transfer teams and begin commercialization activities.

"As our state continues to implement key programs that focus on the commercialization of university projects, the ADVANCE Program is critical in that it supports researchers in the very early stage of validating their technology and beginning the process of developing a commercialization path," says Denise Graves, MEDC university relations director.

Beside the two WMU researchers, awards in the first funding round of the ADVANCE Program also went to two MSU researchers and one from Ferris State University.

Additional information about the program, including the criteria, funding cycle details and application materials can be found at

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