Project led by Prof. Sartori and Hari Cherupalli Awarded NSF’s Partnership for Innovation Grant

Prof. John Sartori is the recipient of a Partnerships for Innovation (PFI) award from the National Science Foundation. The award, effective July 2019 for the Technology Transfer track, will amount to $250,000 for a duration of two years through June 2021.

The NSF’s PFI program supports researchers in science and engineering disciplines that are funded by NSF to perform translational research and technology development, accelerating the conversion of lab discoveries to commercial and industry-ready concepts and devices that can be of communal benefit. 

The outcome of the research conducted by Sartori’s lab on application-specific design and optimization of ultra-low-power embedded processors will now, with the support of the PFI award, be translated to commercial-level tools that can be applied in industry. These tools can automatically customize hardware for target applications, reducing power consumption, cost, and area. Additionally, the new technology is an enabler for printed plastic processor technology and also offers security guarantees that protect systems from being compromised. The latter is especially critical with the coming boom in Internet of Things (IoT) applications. Through deployment of ubiquitous sensing, mobile, and IoT systems, we are beginning to transmit all of our data through the cloud. As sensors embedded into every part of our lives have access to all of our data – private, vital, financial, and otherwise – securing this immense attack surface will be critical.   

The project presents researchers associated with the lab the opportunity to interact closely with industry and build sustaining relationships with them as they develop compelling technology. Considering the outlook for pacemakers and printed electronics (the pacemakers market is projected to hit nearly $5 billion, and the printed electronics market is estimated to reach $13.6 billion by 2023), these are growing markets and pose a significant opportunity for research labs and related commercial enterprises. 

Image of doctoral student Hari Cherupalli
Doctoral student Hari Cherupalli

The lab’s grant application process was supported by letters of interest from three potential customers: ARM, a leading supplier of microprocessor technology, Medtronic, a major medical device company based in the Twin Cities, and PragmatIC, supplier of ultra-low-cost flexible integrated circuits. The application also included a detailed commercialization plan that was based on extensive customer discovery and exploration of commercialization opportunities. These were led by Prof. Sartori and doctoral student Hari Cherupalli, with the support of the NSF I-Corps program

The research has been recognized previously by a best paper award, selected for publication in IEEE Micro Top Picks, and covered in media outlets such as IEEE Spectrum and Semiconductor Engineering.

Hari Cherupalli is a doctoral student in ECE, working on developing design optimization techniques for ultra-low-power processors under the supervision of Prof. John Sartori.  He is a student lead for the development of the technology and research methodology for the grant. Hari was also the entrepreneurial lead of a team in the NSF I-Corps program to conduct customer discovery and develop an initial commercialization plan.

John Sartori is an Associate Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Minnesota.  His research interests include electronic design automation, computer architecture, algorithm development, computer security, embedded systems, and wearable technology. Sartori was the recipient of the NSF CAREER Award in 2017.