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Ardebili Named Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Cullen College By Janet Miranda

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Haleh Ardebili, Bill D. Cook associate professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Houston, has been named director of the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Initiative at the Cullen College of Engineering.

Ardebili brings experience and knowledge as a researcher and inventor to the Cullen College’s entrepreneurship initiative. She aims to increase the speed of bringing new technologies to the marketplace by introducing new entrepreneurship programs in partnership with the Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship at the UH Bauer College of Business.

“The global emerging trend of viewing engineering involves integration with innovation and entrepreneurship to create different kinds of leaders that can make the technology available to people more quickly,” Ardebili said. “My main mission is to create a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship in our college.”

With a growing reputation as a researcher and inventor, Ardebili understands the challenges of translating ideas from the laboratory to the marketplace. Her research focuses on flexible batteries, converting conventional liquid electrolytes to solid, stable, safer polymers. The flexible structure will have innovative applications in a wide range of products – from aerospace to offshore energy production and wearable technologies.

“The possibilities of applications are wide. It is becoming increasingly necessary because of our lifestyle to use multifunctional energy storage,” she said. “Multifunctional batteries will be able to have other functionalities, such as mechanical flexibility or structural compatibility.”

Ardebili has won grants totaling millions of dollars from the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center; National Science Foundation CAREER Award; Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR); Texas Space Grant Consortium; the Texas Center for Superconductivity (TcSUH); and the Subsea Systems Institute.

Her research focuses on a variety of applications: research for the Army focuses on shelter materials incorporating flexible batteries, while research for the Subsea Systems Institute is focused on fabrication and testing of flexible batteries for Subsea applications.

Recently, her flexible and stretchable battery startup Exostretch – a partnership between Ardebili, her engineering research team, and business students from Wolff Center led by Ross Smolen – was named among the Top 10 finalists for NASA iTech Cycle 3. She is working to find and expand market opportunities.

She is working to instill a sense of cooperation and cultivation of innovation to the Cullen College initiative by fostering a “technological incubator.” in collaboration with RedLabs (College of Business), Technology Transfer (Division of Research) and other entities. She believes that offering resources that bridge the gap between engineering and the marketplace will speed up future technologies and innovation.

“What we’re trying to do is boost collaboration between students, colleges and programs to make it easier for our students and faculty to integrate their technology and move to the next commercial level. It is a necessity because of how integrated disciplines are becoming,” she said.

Current and future activities include competitions, co-organized with HIVE (student organization) and RedLabs, to encourage students toward innovation and entrepreneurship and creating a minor and certificate program in Innovation and Entrepreneurship in partnership with the Department of Marketing and Entrepreneurship at Bauer College of Business.