UA Engineering-Linked Companies Win Arizona Innovation Challenge Awards

Startup Codelucida, cofounded by a UA College of Engineering professor, and young company Hydronalix, founded by a UA Engineering alumnus, have each won $250,000 in Arizona Innovation Challenge grants for spring 2017.

Two companies to win the Arizona Commerce Authority's spring 2017 Arizona Innovation Challenge have roots at the University of Arizona College of Engineering.

Codelucida, which is commercializing error-correction technology for data storage and communications systems, was co-founded by UA professor of electrical and computer engineering and mathematics Bane Vasić with Shiva Planjery, who received his PhD in electrical and computer engineering from the UA in 2013, and David Declercq, a professor at the University of Cergy-Pontoise in France.

Hydronalix, maker of the Emergency Integrated Lifesaving Lanyard, or EMILY, robotic lifeguard, was founded by Tony Mulligan, who received his bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from the UA in 1988 and serves on the College of Engineering's Industry Partner Board.

The companies were among six Arizona startups and early-stage companies to receive $250,000 in the spring 2017 round of the contest held by the Arizona Commerce Authority. Judges selected the winners from 150 applicants for technology potential, marketing strategy and quality of their management teams.

Saving Lives at Sea

"We are so thankful to live and work in Arizona, a state that highly values advanced technology and manufacturing," said Mulligan, whose high-tech, remotely operated rescue boat has saved hundreds of lives, including refugees in the Mediterranean Sea. EMILY can reach distressed people at sea six times faster than a human lifeguard, serve as a flotation device for up to six and operate in severe weather that would make traditional rescue operations impossible. The sea-rescue robots are manufactured at the company's headquarters in Sahuarita, Arizona.

"This award will significantly help us grow to the next level and assist those first responders who risk their lives in saving many more lives globally," Mulligan said.

Several UA Engineering students helped develop sonar technology for EMILY for their senior design projects. Their prototype has gone into production and is being shipped to countries worldwide. The students include Daniel Okiyama, who earned his bachelor's degree in electrical engineering in 2014, and Jaime Lara-Martinez, who earned the same degree the following year. Both work full-time for Hydronalix, which also has three UA Engineering student interns. The company is a member of the newly formed Sahuarita Advanced Manufacturing Technology Entrepreneurship Center.

Launched at the UA

The other UA-affiliated Arizona Innovation Challenge awardee was launched at the University.

codelucida logoVasić, a member of the UA BIO5 Institute, and his cofounders developed their patented technology, algorithms for ensuring that data is reliably stored without loss due to errors, in the labs of the UA Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. They partnered with Tech Launch Arizona, the office of the UA that commercializes inventions stemming from University research, to protect the intellectual property and license it to the startup.

"Codelucida has a great team, and it is a pleasure to watch the process of translating theoretical discoveries made by my research group at the University of Arizona to a business that benefits our community," Vasić said. "Error correction is a core technology necessary in any communication and computing system, from wireless phones and optical links, data centers and computer memories to quantum computers. We hope that our potential to tap into these markets and our track record will attract new talented employees to move to and stay in Tucson."

Codelucida has received approximately $700,000 in angel funding and two Small Business Innovation Research grants totaling $900,000 from the National Science Foundation.

"Codelucida is the example of how a technology startup has had the best possible start by utilizing all the resources of our UA community," said Anita Bell, senior manager at the Arizona Center for Innovation, which helped Codelucida set up shop at UA Tech Park. Codelucida recently relocated to downtown Tucson.


Top picture: The EMILY production team stands next to the assembly line at the Hydronalix facilty in Sahuarita, Arizona.