Hispanic inventors and entrepreneurs bring new technologies to market
Joint blog by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and the Economic Development Administration
This month, the U.S. Department of Commerce is celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month and Hispanic communities. We pay tribute to the numerous Hispanic entrepreneurs and innovators that help fulfill the promise of America for all. Here are three of their stories.
Using Artificial Intelligence to Develop Greener Chemicals
Chemical engineer Dr. Daniela Blanco was looking for ways to make nylon production more sustainable when she discovered that her innovative use of artificial intelligence technology might be able to help scientists across the entire chemical industry. Born in Venezuela, Blanco earned her PhD in the United States, where she founded her startup company Sunthetics. The company uses artificial intelligence to help others develop greener chemicals. By developing machine learning platforms that leverage very small data sets, the company enables scientists throughout the chemical industry to make new chemicals, medicine, and materials, up to 15 times faster. Read more in the USPTO’s Journeys of Innovation story on Daniela Blanco.
“Sustainability from now on should be profitable. Sustainability should be something that we take as a given. That we are already building new chemicals, new materials, everything — in the most possible, sustainable way.” I have always thought there is great strength in knowing who you are. I am beyond proud of my roots, my culture, and my values. I embrace where I come from, and I am grateful for the way it shaped me to define where I am going.”
Innovation to Fight Chronic Respiratory Diseases
Dr. Maria Artunduaga is a Colombian-born physician-scientist, inventor, and patent holder. After losing her grandmother to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), she decided to leave her career in plastic surgery and founded Samay Health. The startup focused on enhancing the quality of life for people living with COPD through connected health and machine learning. Her solution—a device named Sylvee, after her grandmother—is a prototype modeled after continuous glucose monitoring sensors. The device attaches to the patient’s chest and injects sound through the thoracic cavity, listens back to it, and captures changes in resonance. She's raised $3.2M in non-dilutive and venture capital to bring Sylvee to market. Hear from Artunduaga and other successful Hispanic innovators about their creative journeys at the USPTO’s upcoming Hispanic Innovation and Entrepreneurship Program on October 12.
“Entrepreneurship ensures the U.S. can win on the global stage, but Latinos are still underrepresented in business and technology. Advancing policies that expand access to research funding and highlighting inventors of color will enable a necessary shift in the industry. Protecting our intellectual property (IP) has enabled Samay to be highly differentiated and investable. We have four granted U.S. patents, and ten additional more pending in the U.S. and in eight other countries. In retrospect, I think being an immigrant has strengthened my drive to build a strong IP portfolio because I know it will help my business compete long-term. I tell people, look at me, I'm not an engineer, but taught myself how to do this. If I did it, anyone can.”
For Briselda Hernandez, the motivation to support innovators and entrepreneurs grew out of a passion for community service. After graduating from the University of San Diego, she served as an AmeriCorps VISTA member attached to the Los Angeles Unified School District Community Partnership Program. There she helped improve the organizational and financial capacity of the district’s parent engagement program. Nine years later, she’s now the executive-director of Minot, North Dakota’s Souris Basin Planning Council (SBPC), an Economic Development Administration (EDA)-designated Economic Development District. SBPC is managed by a coalition of public and private sector entities and charged with delivering capacity building and technical assistance to catalyze entrepreneurship and stimulate innovation in North-Central North Dakota.
SBPC recently launched a Business Accelerator Fund that is providing startup and gap financing to emerging businesses and has resulted in the creation of 79 new jobs since 2020. Last year, the fund also helped establish the Start Up Minot Academy, providing networking and education for local entrepreneurs. As Hernandez explains, it’s the ability to deliver these types of rapid results and impactful programs that is the most rewarding aspect of working in economic development.
"I am intrigued by the multi-faceted, fast-paced, and creative nature of the field,” said Hernandez. This profession gives you the opportunity to be a catalyst for change by collaborating with a wide-range of stakeholders including individuals, governments, nonprofits, and private organizations.”
Expanding opportunity and creating an economy that works for all Americans is central to the Department of Commerce’s mission and strategic plan. The USPTO and EDA are proud to join all Commerce bureaus in celebrating the Hispanic community and recognizing their significant contributions to our nation’s economy, competitiveness, and growth.
Learn more about Hispanic inventors and entrepreneurs at the 2022 Hispanic Innovation and Entrepreneurship Program on Oct 12. In addition, visit the USPTO’s inventor and entrepreneur resources page to learn more about protecting your intellectual property. Additional information on EDA programs that can assist entrepreneurs is available on the EDA website.