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Chemistry students following entrepreneurial muse

After almost six years of post-secondary education, Stan Amyotte is ready to begin blazing a trail of his own.

A master’s student in chemistry, Amyotte and his partner have an innovative idea to launch a new business in the electronics research and manufacturing sector, but know it’s not going to be cheap.

“All of us are students,” said Amyotte, who estimates launching the business could take as much as $100,000. “We don’t have a whole lot of money to start off with.”

Amyotte and his business partner Michael Miller, a PhD student in chemistry, might be perfect candidates for a new federal government program designed to improve the business skills of entrepreneurs in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields by providing access to financing and support services to launch and manage start-up businesses in southern Ontario.

FedDev Ontario’s Scientists and Engineers in Business initiative has allocated five fellowships worth $25,000 each to the University of Windsor for any graduate with a Masters or PhD in science or engineering within the last three years.

“This investment will help graduates gain the real world experience and business skills they need to become the modern entrepreneurs and industry leaders who take ideas from the drawing board to the marketplace,” Joe Oliver, MP, Eglinton-Lawrence, said when the funding was announced.

There’s an expectation the graduate will provide matching funds, create new jobs within three years of starting and have global sales opportunities, according to Heather Pratt, director of research and development in the university’s office of research services.

“A lot of these people might have great ideas, but might not necessarily have a lot of business acumen,” said Pratt, who is encouraging more students and recent grads with good ideas to inquire about the program. “We really need to do what we can to help support them.”

Amyotte acknowledges he and Miller could use the backing. They haven’t done complete market research and they don’t have a business plan, and although the initiative is still in its infancy, it’s something that Amyotte is passionate about.

“I’ve been thinking about it for about a year-and-a-half,” said Amyotte, who was understandably reluctant to reveal details about a proprietary concept in a highly competitive market. “I wouldn’t put my heart and soul into it unless I thought it had a lot of potential.”

Amyotte and Miller work in the lab of chemistry professor Tricia Carmichael, where they study the development of stretchable, flexible, electronic devices. He loves working there, but says he’s ready to move on, partly inspired by his father’s entrepreneurial spirit. A mechanic who launched his own business about eight years ago, he repairs industrial grade kitchen and laundry equipment.

“He just got sick and tired of working for someone else,” he said.

Amyotte believes he’s perfectly situated to succeed.

“Opening up a business here in Windsor has huge advantages,” he said. “You’re right beside the border and real estate is very cheap.”

Pratt is encouraging anyone else who thinks they might be eligible for the program to contact her at hpratt@uwindsor.ca.

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