Inspired by two college students, RadTech: The Association for UV&EB Technology launched an accelerator-style education program to explore young people’s ideas for uses of the technology and connect members with startups.
When life gives you lemons, make … plastic? That was the idea that two college students approached Gary Cohen with at one of his association’s annual meetings.
Cohen is CEO of RadTech: The Association for UV&EB Technology. The group recently announced the winners of its inaugural RadLaunch Accelerator program, which grew out of Cohen’s conversation with the students at that meeting.
The students explained that they were interested in using RadTech’s technology, which uses ultraviolet light and electron beams to make materials, to turn lemon peels into plastic. One of the students had been working at a lemonade stand in Southern California and was dismayed at the number of peels that were wasted each day.
“They thought the trade association was a good place to go” to find out more, Cohen said, and they queried him about starting up an accelerator.
But with a staff of just two and a relatively small budget, Cohen wasn’t sure that his organization could pull off a traditional accelerator that requires lots of investment. The students persisted, saying what they needed most was to understand the technology better. That, Cohen knew, RadTech could help with.
So, with the board’s support, the RadLaunch educational accelerator was born to connect longtime members with startups. RadTech accepted applications and chose seven candidates from across the globe—from Italy to Israel to Iowa—though Cohen said that all of the applications featured interesting ideas. The winners were paired up with mentors, and each received $1,500. “That was a lot for our budget,” Cohen said.
But it was worth it. At its biannual meeting in Chicago last month, the accelerator winners presented their ideas, met their mentors, and received awards. “I think one of the most gratifying parts of my association career was seeing those seven young people with RadTech awards,” Cohen said.
And RadTech hopes that RadLaunch will be the first of many accelerators. Its members are supportive, Cohen said, enjoying the opportunity to help young people and check out what they’re doing with the technology.
“The ultimate goal was to help new companies and startups to learn about our technology and to use our technology, so from that perspective, it’s been wonderfully successful,” he said.