Blue Highway, LLC
1. What is Blue Highway?Blue Highway, LLC
(“Blue Highway”) is a new technology incubator company formed in partnership with Syracuse University and New York State. Blue Highway is a wholly owned subsidiary of Welch Allyn, Inc. (“Welch Allyn”), a manufacturer of frontline medical products and solutions based in Skaneateles Falls, New York. Its primary mission is to deliver innovative intellectual capital focused on healthcare technologies to Welch Allyn and other potential partners.
2. How was Blue Highway created?
The idea for Blue Highway originated roughly 2 years ago as a result of discussions between Al DiRienzo (Welch Allyn’s then-Chief Science and Technology Officer) and Jack Rudnick (Welch Allyn’s then-Vice President and General Counsel) regarding Welch Allyn’s product development process. Al and Jack were particularly interested in generating new technologies for Welch Allyn’s long-term product pipeline, and they prepared a detailed business plan for a technology incubator company that would focus on developing innovative technologies rather than specific products. Welch Allyn’s Board of Directors approved their business plan shortly thereafter.
3. Would you briefly describe Blue Highway’s business plan?
Blue Highway’s portfolio will reflect a combination of incremental (20%), disruptive (50%), and breakthrough (30%) technologies, with an emphasis on new healthcare technologies. It will seek to cultivate promising technologies from across the globe, but Al expects that a significant portion of its new technologies will originate from sources within New York State, including Welch Allyn’s own untapped intellectual property assets. Although Blue Highway’s primary partner will be Welch Allyn, it will also explore other opportunities for monetizing its new technologies, including spinning out companies and selling or licensing intellectual property assets.
4. How did Blue Highway start collaborating with Syracuse University?
Prior to the formation of Blue Highway, Al and Jack had collaborated with Syracuse University (“SU”) on other projects. For example, students from SU’s College of Law (supervised by Richard Newman, formerly Welch Allyn’s Vice President for Advanced Technology and now adjunct professor at SU’s College of Law, and Theodore Hagelin, professor of law and director of the New York State Science & Technology Law Center at SU’s College of Law) had previously assisted Welch Allyn in researching and analyzing the commercial development of several early-stage technologies. So there was already an existing relationship when Al and Jack approached SU to discuss the formation of a new technology incubator.
Indeed, SU has been an active partner throughout the planning and formation process. For example, Mark Weldon, SU’s Executive Director of Corporate Relations, worked closely with Al and Jack to formulate Blue Highway’s strategy and business plan; Eric Spina (SU’s Vice Chancellor and Provost) and Shiu-Kai Chin (Interim Dean of SU’s L.C. Smith College of Engineering and Computer Science) helped raise Blue Highway’s visibility among SU researchers; and Gina Lee-Glauser (SU’s Associate Vice President for Research and Director of the New York State Center for Advanced Technology in Computer Applications and Software Engineering (“CASE”)) was instrumental in securing facilities for Blue Highway.
5. What are the advantages of this collaborative relationship between Blue Highway and SU?
Blue Highway gains the opportunity to leverage the collective expertise of the SU community. In addition to SU’s engineering and information studies schools, Blue Highway expects to work closely with faculty and students from SU’s business, law, and even art schools. Similarly, SU’s Chancellor and President Nancy Cantor has emphasized that Blue Highway will provide SU researchers and students with the unique opportunity to gain practical hands-on experience in the development of several new technologies.
6. What is Blue Highway’s current status?
Blue Highway already has several new technologies in its pipeline and is currently collaborating with numerous partners, including SU, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, and SUNY Upstate Medical University. Blue Highway expects to launch its website this summer and plans to be fully operational by early fall. Blue Highway is housed at SU’s CASE Center, which has been designated by the New York State Foundation for Science, Technology and Innovation as a Center for Advanced Technology.
7. Who’s on the Blue Highway team?
• Al DiRienzo, Chief Executive Officer
• Jack Rudnick, Senior Vice President for Legal and Government Affairs
• David Eilers, Vice President for Business Development
• Courtney Swanson, Business Manager
In addition, several Senior Research Fellows, with expertise in intelligent computing, biophysics, biomedical engineering, and other areas, will be in residence at Blue Highway.
8. How was Blue Highway named?
The name was inspired by several sources. There was a television series several years ago entitled Blue Highways that highlighted an author's journey on the secondary roads of America, and the connotation of the "road less traveled" seemed appropriate. There are also a number of business strategy books that emphasize the importance of creating open – or “blue” – territory in the marketplace. Ultimately, however, the name was selected by an online sample of over 300 inventors, researchers, and physicians.