“It’s not often you can go out and find a group that has the multidisciplinary skills we need across the board, so they can talk our language and what we want to do,” says Mike Carrabba, Ph.D., vice president for strategy and innovation at Droplet Measurement Technologies. The Colorado-based company found the technology assistance it needed in Terre Haute, at Rose-Hulman Ventures.
As its name suggests, Droplet Measurement Technologies focuses on instruments that measure aerosols such as cloud droplets, bioaerosols and black carbon. Its solutions are essential for a wide range of research, including studies into how bioaerosols impact ecosystems and health, how various particles influence climate changes, and how various particles and pollution can affect cloud formation and precipitation.
In 2020, Droplet Measurement Technologies acquired a line of lidar technology for atmospheric monitoring from another corporation. “We had a wide variety of things we needed to make improvements on,” Carrabba says. The problem was, the technology’s older software complicated any effort to make revisions and improvements. “You had to be specialist to make changes to the software.”
The expertise available at Rose-Hulman Ventures was up to the challenge. “The initial project was to take the code and bring it up to modern-day compiling standards, so it can be used and edited for the future,” he says. “That took a specialized skillset, which they had. They basically took the code and stepped it up to the point where it is fully accessible by us, compilable and changeable.”
Making the old code workable was a big deal, he says. “The end result was breathing new life into software we thought we were going to have to completely scrap,” he says. “They did it in a timely manner and efficiently, and were able to communicate in language I could understand and the technical lead could understand. They did an outstanding job.”
The team at Droplet Measurement Technologies was impressed enough that it started looking for other ways Rose-Hulman Ventures could be of service. The company, for example, wants to ensure that certain technology transitions and upgrades are smooth from a customer perspective, and Rose-Hulman Ventures may be able to lend support.
“We’re pretty excited about working with Rose-Hulman Ventures, and looking at this as a long-term relationship,” Carrabba says. “It’s exactly what we need—state-of-the-art technology and people trained in state-of-the-art technology, and they are right on it. How they work with us is ideal and perfect.”
Carrabba says his company has found the staff and students to be highly motivated, and adept at figuring out how to proceed. “Going to an outside consulting firm, we’d almost have to do 50% of the work to get this done. We can have discussions with the Rose-Hulman Ventures team in a way they understand, and we don’t have to go and tell them exactly what to do. It’s economical for us, as well.”
He became familiar with Rose-Hulman Ventures because his son is a mechanical engineering student at Rose-Hulman. An email from the institute inspired him to look into the possibilities.
Carrabba has in previous jobs had experience working with outside organizations bringing in technologies, and has found it can be problematic. “When I have talked with many universities, they tout, ‘here’s a tech we’ve developed and we want to license it to you.’ But they don’t want to help you develop it. They want to license it and move on.”
The experience with Rose-Hulman Ventures, he says, is refreshingly different. “They’re not saying, ‘Here’s what I have, take it and pay for it.’ This group helps you develop technologies and helps you with what you need to do.”