Two engineering professors and an associate vice president at the University of Central Florida nabbed three Schwartz Tech Awards Tuesday night.
The awards recognize Central Florida researchers and leaders from academia and industry who are pioneering exploratory and cutting-edge research to enhance products, services or other applications in any field. The awards program is named after the late William C. Schwartz, a community leader, business pioneer and innovator in the field of optics and photonics.
Sudipta Seal, an engineering professor and nanotechnology and materials expert, was named Researcher of the Year.
Tom O’Neal, associate vice president for Research and Commercialization, earned the Tech Community Champion award, which honors an individual who does not directly work in the region’s tech industry but supports its efforts, entrepreneurship and expansion.
Productivity Apex Inc., a company developed out of UCF’s Business Incubation Program program and led by associate engineering professor Mansooreh Mollaghasemi, was named a Regional Innovator. The award recognizes companies for creating, developing and successfully implementing products, ideas and processes that positively impact our community.
Each of the winners has been instrumental in moving Central Florida forward in terms of technology, innovation and entrepreneurship.
Seal has a long history of discovering and creating innovative technology since arriving at UCF in 1998 from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory at the University of California at Berkeley. His research has applications in environmental cleanup, nanoadditives for fuels, and health among others. Some of his discoveries have led to start-up companies including nSolGel Inc, nTiOx and NanoCe LLC.
In addition to teaching and research he is also the director of UCF’s Advanced Materials Processing Analysis Center, UCF’s Nanoscience and Technology Center, and the interim chair of Materials Science and Engineering , which are hubs for innovation.
Seal has been recognized frequently by local, regional and national organizations and is a fellow of American Society of Materials, American Association of Advancement of Science, American Vacuum Society, Institute of Nanotechnology, National Academy of Inventors, Electrochemical Society, and the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineers among others.
O’Neal has helped create an entrepreneurial ecosystem for technology in Orlando for the past 20 years. He has helped the executive leadership of the community and UCF articulate the direction, vision and execution of multiple award‐winning entrepreneurial programs, including the UCF Business Incubation Program and GrowFL, the Economic Gardening Institute, among many others.
The UCF Business Incubation Program, which has since expanded into a network of eight incubators in four counties across Central Florida, has helped more than 155 start-up companies and in 2013 the National Business Incubation Association named it “Incubator Network of the Year.” His leadership aided in the creation of GrowFL, which works with Florida’s second‐stage companies. Since its inception, GrowFL has assisted more than 700 companies through its strategic research and CEO Roundtable programs and recognized 150 successful entrepreneurs through its annual awards program, Florida Companies to Watch. As of June 30, 2013, GrowFL-assisted companies represented 13,493 direct jobs across the state. In 2013, these companies had an estimated sales output of $1.14 billion and contributed $2.33 billion to the Florida economy.
O’Neal has helped bring Central Florida national recognition for its entrepreneurial ecosystem. He is recognized as an innovator in the development of entrepreneurship and has testified in Congress as an internationally recognized brand ambassador for entrepreneurship‐related matters. He serves as an expert on business incubation and industry best practices, and has established international partnerships with several countries such as France, Colombia, Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom and Ireland.
Mollaghasemi founded Productivity Apex in 2001 with the goal of “using sound principles of industrial engineering and operations research to help commercial enterprises and government agencies improve productivity and maximize their efficiencies.”
Her company offers a range of services in such cutting-edge areas as modeling and simulation, data mining. artificial intelligence and software engineering among others. What Mollaghasemi and her team develop helps companies improve in areas from supply-chain management to fleet management and freight planning and delivery optimization. The company’s clients are in multiple industries including aerospace, aviation, manufacturing, healthcare and hospitality. Among her clients are the Department of Veterans Affairs, Florida Department of Transportation, Orlando International Airport and the City of San Antonio, Texas.
The Orlando Economic Development Commission, Orlando Tech Association and the Florida High Tech Corridor Council, which partnered for the 24th annual awards, honored the winners in downtown Orlando on Tuesday evening. Jorge Estevez a WFTV news anchor was the program master of ceremonies.