Research at Nebraska 2021-2022 Report
Brad Roth, president and executive director of NUtech Ventures (left), addresses the crowd at the 2021 Innovator Awards celebration.
Economic Development

Celebrating University, Industry Partner Innovators

NUtech Ventures, the university’s technology commercialization affiliate, annually recognizes outstanding university personnel and industry partners who develop and commercialize cutting-edge research. Seven earned 2021 Innovator Awards.

A goal of Nebraska’s N2025 strategic plan is increasing the number of patents, copyrights, licenses and research-based startup companies. “These awards reflect our university’s commitment to advancing innovation and making it available for broader impact, both here in Nebraska and around the world,” Chancellor Ronnie Green said.

Ron Faller, Willa Cather Research Professor and director of the Midwest Roadside Safety Facility, received the Prem S. Paul Innovator of the Year honor. Faller and his team have longstanding collaborations with public transportation officials and companies to design and test new technologies in highway safety. The honor is given to an individual who exemplifies innovation and entrepreneurship by advancing novel research into significant commercial use.

The Midwest Roadside Safety Facility and TrafFix Devices Inc. jointly received Breakthrough Innovation of the Year accolades for development of the Delta crash cushion, a guardrail safety device that evenly distributes energy to slowly bring a vehicle to a stop and reduce a crash’s impact. Delta is approved for commercial use. The award recognizes an emerging technology with potential to profoundly impact an industry, business or field of study.

Eric Markvicka, assistant professor of mechanical and materials engineering, is the Emerging Innovator of the Year for his robotics research. Through combining knowledge in computer and materials science, Markvicka studies how materials interact with the human body and the surrounding environment. His work has applications for wearable medical devices, biosensors, soft robotics and multifunctional materials. The honor recognizes a researcher, often a junior faculty member, for recent innovative contributions.

Megan Hopkins, project director of the Nebraska Collegiate Prevention Alliance, earned Creative Work of the Year honors for co-developing an online program to address substance abuse issues among college students. It is used at colleges and universities across Nebraska and Missouri. Data show participating students receive fewer alcohol sanctions and are more likely to remain enrolled by junior year. The award recognizes an individual who has developed a creative innovation, typically protected under copyright.

TurfGrade, a company launched by agronomist Bill Kreuser during his time as a Nebraska faculty member, is the Startup Company of the Year. The research-based GreenKeeper app provides guidance for applying fertilizer and plant growth regulators, making turfgrass management simpler and more sustainable. Customers include high-end golf, baseball and softball facilities. The award recognizes a startup company founded by Nebraska faculty, staff or students that has made significant progress in becoming a sustainable business.

Jackson Stansell, graduate student in biological systems engineering, is the Outstanding Graduate Student of the Year. He co-developed a fertigation management system to help farmers decide when and how much nitrogen fertilizer to apply. The N-Time Fertigation Management System is the basis of his startup company, Sentinel Fertigation. Read more on page 30. Stansell worked with NUtech to patent protect and license the system. The award is given to a student who has developed an innovation and is progressing toward commercialization.

+ Additional content for Celebrating University, Industry Partner Innovators

Nebraska news release: NUtech Ventures announces 2021 Innovator Awards

N logo with the text In our grit, our glory