Are you ready for cotton candy-flavored processed cheese? If that’s not your taste, how about green apple, banana or chocolate flavors? I sampled and liked them all, and can see them as snacks or desserts for children.

The Wisconsin Center for Dairy Research developed the flavors and served the cheeses at the International Cheese Technology Expo in Milwaukee in April. CDR, housed at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is a leading dairy research facility in the United States. The researchers there work to solve a lot of problems facing dairy processors, such as reducing sodium while maintaining taste and texture in cheese.

While university administrators say the center has been great at research, they admit it hasn’t done as good of a job at transferring the technology to industry. That is all about to change.

With the backing of a $1 million i6 technology challenge grant from the federal government, CDR has established a technology-transfer program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Nicknamed Turbo (for Tech Transfer University Research and Business Opportunity), the program is headed by Vic Grassman, an expert in economic development. He has worked in the state’s Department of Workforce Development and in economic development for Janesville, Wis. The grant was awarded in 2012 and the center hired Grassman in July 2013. The funds are used for staffing, equipment and marketing.

The CDR has a number of projects available for use by dairy processors (with or without licensing). Here are just a few:

  • highly functional beta-casein (milk protein)
  • high-pressure processing of packaged cheese to accelerate ripening, improve texture and extend shelf life
  • high-protein (36%) snacking cheese
  • milk-derived whey protein concentrate that can be used in protein-enhanced beverages, infant formula or high-protein bars
  • modified dairy protein with improved functionality for use in UHT or retort beverages, sauces or soups, or in acidified dairy protein beverages

Grassman told me that any established business or entrepreneur with a location in the United States can work with Turbo on commercializing these projects. This is not a Wisconsin-only program. But besides using these existing research projects, dairy processors can contract with Turbo to develop business plans or market analyses, or book time in the center’s processing plant or lab to work out the kinks in new ideas. Turbo charges for its services, but bills users at cost.

Launched in 2010 by the White House as part of its Startup America initiative, the i6 Challenge is led by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship.  According to the Commerce Department, the grants are intended “to encourage and reward universities and research centers to create proof of concept centers that identify innovations to commercialize and help them to put together the building blocks to create high growth, successful companies, including business model support, access to investors, mentors and access to potential customers.”

The partners with the CDR are the University’s College of Agriculture and Life Science, Dairy Research Institute, United States Dairy Export Council, UW Office of Corporate Relations, Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association, Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation and the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board.

 Contact Grassman at 608-512-6661 to learn how to Turbo-charge your ideas.