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Catalyst Program

Virginia tech offers several entrepreneurial courses which result in student developed concepts for innovative products and businesses. There are also local business incubators, such as VT Knowledgworks, which help start-ups overcome the legal and technical aspects of forming a small business. However, there is a lack of access to the research, development, and prototyping resources needed to turn a concept into an actual, tangible product which can be brought to market. Part of the ISE department's Center for Innovation based Manufacturing (CIbM), the Catalyst Program is a prototype and technology development program formed to help bridge this gap by bringing together and making available all the resources needed for the full product development cycle.

The Catalyst Program itself consists of a team of faculty, staff, and graduates to guide students through our product development program and make prototypes in the Catalyst facilities. We have also created a network of technical experts and specialized resources from all over the university and local community to make available to the students. Finally, we have partnered with the existing entrepreneurial programs and regional business incubators. By both giving students access to the needed development resources and working with the existing programs, the Catalyst Program has helped to create a community which can support student entrepreneurs from the beginning stages of concept development through to the creation of self sustaining businesses.


Program Path

Students come to the Catalyst Program on their own or from an entrepreneurial course at any stage of the concept development cycle ranging from an individual with a simple idea to a full team with a developed business model. If need be, they are guided in the maturation of their concept and formation of a team. When ready, teams pitch their ideas to a panel of Catalyst members and technical experts who give them advice and formally review their concept. After one or multiple concept pitch and revisal cycles, teams are given funding in various stages and access to Catalyst resources and network to produce a viable prototype and prepare to bring it to market. Finally, teams are offered the opportunity to work with local businesses and business incubators as the next step in developing their product or business.


Catalyst facilities consist of a prototyping lab with workshop and machining equipment and a digital technology center with equipment such a 3D scanner and printer and high powered CAD/CAM/CAE computers. Also offered to the students are office space and a network of other specialized local and university facilities and experts.


Come by our facility at 197 Durham Hall

...or contact Will Vatis at

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