Technology has been licensed from UCLA. The school’s Institute of Technology Advancement, a technology development enterprise, was instrumental in getting the company up and running.

By Matthew Chin

WaveConnex, a start-up company whose contact-less electronics connection technology was accelerated for commercialization at the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science’s Institute for Technology Advancement (ITA), has given a gift of cash and company equity back to the engineering school.

This is the first time that the school has received a gift of a company’s equity.

WaveConnex is dedicated to leveraging research in millimeter-wave radio technology developed by UCLA electrical engineering professor M.C. Frank Chang toward the development of products for contactless electronic connections. The company, which was incorporated in August 2009, has licensed the technology from UCLA.

“Two years ago, we established the Institute for Technology Advancement to accelerate the transition of big-impact technologies created here at UCLA laboratories into development and commercialization,” said Vijay K. Dhir, dean of the school.

“We are proud to see WaveConnex bring the millimeter-wave radio technology to the marketplace, and we look forward to seeing even more innovative and promising technologies, sponsored by UCLA ITA, become success stories in the future.

“One of the roles of the ITA is to provide seedling funds for innovative technologies at the school that can lead to commercial development,” said Les Lackman, acting director of ITA. “We’re very pleased to see WaveConnex get off the ground as the first of what promises to be many new companies initially sponsored by the ITA.”    WaveConnex’s gift includes a cash amount of $51,000, the amount of the school’s initial sponsorship, and a 2.5 percent share of the company’s equity.

“UCLA Engineering’s ITA is an innovative approach to foster commercialization of engineering research which has potential to benefit UCLA and, indeed, economic development in California,” said  WaveConnex CEO Ira Deyhimy. “Our company was formed and incorporated by leveraging research in Chang’s lab and licensing this technology from the University of California. WaveConnex is an example of the ITA strategy in action.”

The contactless connections are made possible through millimeter-wave electromagnetic radiation generated on silicon material, which is about the size of a grain of rice. Data is exchanged between electronic devices without them touching one another.

The technology will potentially enable wide-ranging applications in the areas of database transfer, Internet infrastructure and entertainment electronics, among others.

“The developed 60GHz wireless connector is based on nanometer-scaled CMOS manufacturing technology that delivers ultra-high data rate (5-10 gigabits per second) links within a short distance,” said Chang. “Such high speed data will no longer be affordable both in cost and reliability when using conventional metal based connectors. And the space (or thickness) limitation in future portable systems will also favor the development of wireless connectors as thin and small as a silicon die.”

Potential applications included improved pocket-sized “smart cards” with embedded integrated circuits that can store and process large amounts of data without ever coming into direct contact with another device.

WaveConnex expects that its products will replace metal-to-metal interconnections currently used in nearly all electronic systems. These new products will have the potential to overcome the limitations of current connectors in terms of performance, reliability and size.

The mechanical connectors are replaced with transmitter-receiver pairs at about 1 cm spacing in flexible orientations. This high bandwidth, electrically transparent connection scheme solves the fundamental limitations of conventional connections.

A second startup company out of ITA, Easel Biotechnologies, has also recently given the school a gift of $51,000 and a 2.5 percent share of the company’s equity. The company is developing biofuels derived from recycled carbon dioxide.

Main Image: Les Lackman, acting director of the ITA; WaveConnex CEO Ira Deyhimy; Dean Dhir; and UCLA Electrical Engineering Professor M.C. Frank Chang.