High-tech institute evolves with changing needs

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Created in 1991, the Colorado Institute for Technology Transfer and Implementation at CU-The Springs has assisted a number of high-technology businesses in defining and marketing their products. But with the passage of years comes change — and CITTI is not exempt from it.

CITTI, an arm of CU’s school of business, was created through a partnership between CU-The Springs and the El Pomar Foundation to transfer knowledge and information from the campus to the community via patented technology developed by faculty members.

But that model is now outdated, said Essica Williams, outgoing director of CITTI. CITTI now addresses the community’s needs by offering consulting services to small, high-technology businesses, both existing and start-up, in the Pikes Peak region.

Jay Hartford Consulting conducted a study for a number of the CU divisions across campuses, including the CITTI branch. After interviewing board members, department personnel, and members of the business community, the November 2000 report concluded that CITTI’s original mission, as well as its name, must change to accommodate the growing needs of the community. Hartford’s recommendation for restructuring was to compile a 10-year retrospective as well as a 10-year objective. This would provide a look at CITTI’s past and give direction to it future role in the community. The report listed no other specific recommendations.

“The concept continues to evolve and maintain leadership positions in this area,” said Dave Palenchar, president and CEO of the El Pomar Foundation. “The arrival of MCI and Intel has provided a larger pool of individuals who, at some time, might decide to start their own technology business.”

Williams and Joseph Rallo, dean of the school of business at CU-The Springs, agreed to align the school of business with CITTI, the Small Business Development Center, the Bureau of Economic Forecasting, Center for Creative Leadership, and Center for Entrepreneurship, an organization that has faded in the past but is expected to resurface, said Williams. This would be accomplished with a one-stop information center for inquiries. CITTI has been working on this change of direction for nearly two years, said Williams, and plans to finish the mission before Williams’ retirement in August.

CITTI is not being absorbed by the school of business, she added, describing the course of action as a pod with tentacles, where the programs would be an offshoot of the focal point – in this case, the school of business. The newly created technology incubator office, headed by Gary Markle, will be stationed in the same building as CITTI and will work closely with Williams and the CITTI staff, yet remain an independent entity.

“The most successful incubators are co-located or partnered with universities,” said Williams. “It will not be a part of the university because universities move at university speed. Entrepreneurs must be able to move quickly.”

CITTI may also change its role in the annual Celebrate Technology Expo, which provides an opportunity for the area’s technology-related businesses to display their achievements.

CITTI was the administrator for the program last year. Because of the number of worker-hours needed for preparation and the costs associated with it, Williams is talking to the Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce and Greater Colorado Springs Economic Development Corp. about becoming equal partners. If they are not interested, she may have to scale back the program to just one day of activities and an awards banquet, instead of the four days the event spanned last year. The expo has ranged from one to six days in the past, varying from year to year, said Williams.

CITTI is now finishing a boot camp for high-technology entrepreneurs. With business plans in place, the entrepreneurs are presenting their ideas for funding to local angel investors. Williams works with about 30 such investors in the Pikes Peak region; each provides average seed funding of $100,000.