The total of $400,000 in funds will help USD build private-public partnerships with two companies: trū Shrimp and Synthetik. trū Shrimp is a U.S.-based company that produces superior quality shrimp that are traceable, sustainable and antibiotic-free. Synthetik is a fast-growing technology start-up that creates and develops breakthrough technology to mitigate the biggest threats to the world, including terrorism, extreme events and global environmental impacts.

“Our students will help those companies with some of their research and development goals in the next year,” Daniel Engebretson, Ph.D., vice president of research and sponsored programs, said.

The funds awarded come from the SDBOR Research & Development Innovation (RDI) Grant program to strategically advance technology-based economic development in the region. 

USD is using two approaches to build a STEM workforce through industry connections. The first approach is to engage existing companies in research and development projects in USD’s areas of strength. Two research areas of strength for USD are artificial intelligence (AI) and biomaterials. USD will engage with Synthetik Applied Technologies in AI research and trū Shrimp in biomaterials research. The second approach is to invest in graduate students to develop technologies discovered by USD faculty.

This project will also help further the development of the Technology Readiness Acceleration Center (TRAC) program. Much of the funding will help the TRAC program better connect with companies in the state for customer discovery, Engebretson said.

Funds from the RDI grant and Synthetik Applied Technologies will be used to acquire and install upgrades to USD’s Lawrence High-Performance Computing cluster.

Lawrence, located in USD's server room, was acquired with funding from a previous RDI grant. These upgrades will allow USD researchers to expand their AI research programs. These programs produce students that Synthetik has identified as a future workforce need.

In addition to co-founding the hardware acquisition, Synthetik has agreed to co-fund two graduate students in Computer Science. The RDI grant will provide for a student in 2023 that will be matched by Synthetik. Synthetik has been awarded 11 Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grants since 2018.

Funds from the RDI grant and USD’s Department of Biomedical Engineering (BME) will fund undergraduate chemistry and BME students. This project will form the foundation for future research and development projects between USD and trū Shrimp.
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