Tuition-free degrees and help with business funding, in our weekly tech news roundup


My column this week begins with a public service announcement: If you haven’t yet rebooted your Wi-Fi router, please go do it.

The FBI reported at the end of May that Cisco security researchers estimate that 500,000 consumer routers have been infected this year by malicious software known as VPNFilter. If your router is from Linksys, MikroTik, Netgear or TP-Link, there’s a high chance this includes you — although the FBI says other routers might be infected as well. So if you got your router from Verizon or Comcast, you should reboot yours, too.

To do so, just turn it off, wait 10 seconds, then turn it on again. Or unplug it from your AC power outlet and replug after 10 seconds. As soon as it recycles, it should move the malicious software out of memory and remove the risk. Go do it now. We’ll wait here.

Now, here’s what’s happening in the world of Pittsburgh technology:

SBIR Road Tour stops in Pittsburgh to help local tech community

The federal government has long provided grants and loans to researchers and entrepreneurs to help them develop their concepts and turn them into businesses. This year, 12 federal agencies have joined forces to provide information and assistance to those who want to take advantage of these resources — and they’ve coordinated with a who’s who of Pittsburgh economic development organizations.

Called the SBIR Road Tour (named after the congressionally funded Small Business Innovation Research program), the tour arrives in Pittsburgh on Tuesday, June 19, for an all-day session at the University of Pittsburgh.

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Panels will address what the grant opportunities are and how to successfully apply, and local and federal representatives will hold one-on-one sessions with attendees. Registration is suggested, but the organizers anticipate allowing walk-ins. Entry fee for Pennsylvania residents is $35.

Participants include the Small Business Administration (SBA), Departments of Commerce, Defense, Education, Energy, Health & Human Services and Transportation, as well as NASA, the National Science Foundation, and the EPA. Local folks include Innovation Works, Idea Foundry, Pittsburgh Technology Council, Duquesne University Small Business Development Center, Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse, city representatives and several universities.

CCAC to offer free STEM degrees; Pitt Medical School to stem physician-scientist shortage

Community College of Allegheny County will be offering four college degrees at no charge to qualifying students as a result of a $629,000 grant they’ve received from the National Science Foundation. These are STEM-related associate degrees, with credits expected to be transferable to four-year institutions.

Eligible degrees are Associate of Science in Biotechnology, Associate of Science in Teacher Education Middle-Level Mathematics, Associate of Science in Teacher Education Middle-Level Science, and BioMaS (Biotechnology, Math & Sciences).

Also in STEM education news, the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine will be starting a Physician Scientist Incubator to develop the next generation of leaders in academic medicine. A total of $5 million in funding is coming from the Burroughs Welcome Fund (providing $500,000 annually over five years) and from UPMC and Pitt.

The Burroughs Welcome grant was also replicated at Stanford, Duke, Vanderbilt and University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center for similar programs, making the total investment by the fund $12.5 million nationally. The hope is to address the physician-scientist shortage caused by a declining population of people entering this career.

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Innovation Works reorganizes to adapt to expected growth

Local economic development organization Innovation Works (IW) announced Monday that it is restructuring its organization, installing Jim Jen as chief operating officer and changing the way it provides resources to its portfolio companies and others in the local tech community.

Jen previously was head of AlphaLab, one of the top incubators in the U.S., according to Forbes Magazine. He led the creation of the incubator within Innovations Works.

In a letter to its stakeholders, IW announced that it would organize its operations along industry lines — software, hardware and life sciences — putting individuals in charge of each of those areas and merging its AlphaLab and AlphaLab Gear incubators into those areas, all reporting to COO Jen.

Terri Glueck, director of communications and community development for IW, said the newly structured organization would “create a number of pathways for portfolio companies to access resources, and to make it easier to guide those portfolio companies to the right resources.”

According to Glueck, the number of companies and individuals who have requested funding or mentoring from IW has increased 600% over the past 10 years, and the reorganization will also help them appropriately handle anticipated continued growth.

IW now has 350-plus portfolio companies in which they have invested, and they provide mentoring and services to hundreds more.

Upcoming business, career & networking events

2018 Cyburgh, PA Initiative
Tuesday, June 19, 7:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. at Embassy Suites, Downtown Pittsburgh

Getting Ready for Angel Investing- Financial Fitness
Wednesday, June 20, 7:30 a.m. – 10 a.m. at Alloy26

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Leveraging Today’s Tech for B2B Sales
Wednesday, June 20, 8:30 – 10 a.m. at Ascender

Breakfast Briefing with Richard Harshman, Chairman, President & CEO of Allegheny Technologies
Thursday, June 21, 7 – 9:30 a.m. at The Rivers Club

Leading Social Impact Start-ups
Thursday, June 21, 8 – 9:30 a.m. at Innovation Works

What Startups Should Know about GDPR (new privacy regulations)
Thursday, June 21, noon – 1 p.m. at Ascender

Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse Summer Open House
Thursday, June 21, 5 – 8 p.m. at Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse





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