Laurie Jugan, Independent Consultant at Mississippi Enterprise for Technology (MSET) at Stennis Space Center, is a leading innovator in the commercialization community.  Hank Torbert, founder of The Frontier Conference, interviews her about how an innovation economy helps create jobs.

Laurie, you are a proven leader in the innovation and commercialization community. Can you share your background and current activities?

I have both a technical and a business background, the combination of the two has served me surprisingly well in my current, second career. I have a Masters degrees in Oceanography and Business Management. I worked for a small technology company for 25 years – as you know, in a small company, people have many hats. My hats ranged from conducting research to running a cost center and writing proposals. I’ve held almost every position there is in a small company (never was an owner or President), so I can relate to the issues companies face. Currently, I am an independent consultant mainly supporting the Mississippi Enterprise for Technology (MSET), located at Stennis Space Center. I help companies navigate through the nuances of federal contracting, tech transfer, and working with other companies.

The Gulf region has some strategic advantages in terms of aerospace and manufacturing technology development, universities, corporations and organizations (such as those that make up our innovation ecosystem). Can you give a quick overview of the Gulf’s regional strengths?

Yes, these are traditional industries in the Gulf region that have developed mainly as a result of strong leaders in the area. In aerospace, that leader is NASA. When you have a big name like that, it attracts others in that sector. In manufacturing, innovation has been more university-led, with universities like Mississippi State taking on education/training roles to support these industries.

Can you share some of Mississippi Enterprise for Technology (MSET) initiatives? What are the key areas for innovation? What are the focus sectors?

MSET is currently entrenched in a whole new look at the Gulf coast economy that focuses on the water asset. This “new” industry, which we are calling the Blue Economy, might even be an addition to the Frontier Conference in years to come! Key innovations in this sector include the use of autonomous unmanned systems. Initially affordable by the Navy and Oil & Gas industries, we are now seeing smaller, more agile systems being developed for entirely new applications.

I firmly believe that an innovation economy can help to create jobs. This is also part of the MIST Industry Cluster’s core mission. As this is very important to New Orleans, can you elaborate on how jobs can be created through innovation?

First, we are seeing more new start-ups that focus on advancing a technology. These range from the one-person operation to those that skyrocket to 250+ employees. In this case, inventors are coming up with new designs that take a capability to a whole new level. Second, technology insertion creates new jobs – for example, the Navy at Stennis will be looking for perhaps hundreds of new employees to support their fleet of underwater gliders in the next 3-5 years.

What are some of the key partnerships in the Gulf region that are focused on innovation and technology transfer?

Collaboration is really key in innovation and technology transfer. It’s not easy to identify a technology and then find a company that can take it to market, then find buyers. That’s why conferences like The Frontier Conference are so important – you never know when the next key partnership will present itself. We partner with federal and state agencies, other tech transfer offices, companies, investors, you name it.

What companies and products have emerged from these efforts?

There are several – I’ll give you two examples. We have a client company that is about to go into production of a small, towed acoustic array that can localize marine mammals in an area. This helps others, whose work makes really loud sounds underwater, know when they can continue or need to temporarily stop their work. Another client is working on using available databases and models to determine if damage to a property was from wind or water following a severe storm.

Several entrepreneurs have tried to commercialize technology. While some were successful, others were not. What is the best advice you have for someone who wants to develop and commercialize intellectual property or a research-driven idea?

Understand the uses of your technology. Many technologists focus on the amazing thing they’ve created. They talk all about its functionality, but do not translate that to what it means to a potential customer. The customer is looking for a solution to his or her problem and needs to know how this new technology will help.

The Frontier was created to bring key industry participants together and highlight Louisiana and the Gulf Region’s key innovation assets. With this said, as a region, what improvements can be made to foster greater cooperation among innovation economy participants (e.g. universities, entrepreneurs, research institutions, corporations, economic development organizations, etc.)?

I think your reference to the area as a ‘region’ says it all. We have to proactively support the region. Many times, we are concerned with boundaries and competition. We have to find ways to work better together and know that any success is the region’s success. Again, opportunities like The Frontier Conference allow us to share information and success stories in other sectors that might be applicable to sectors needing similar solutions.



View the interview here:

Original Post By: CityBusiness Guest Perspective, March 12, 2018


Announcing 2018 Frontier Conference’s morning keynote speaker: Jens Festervoll.


Festervoll is a Senior Advisor in Corporate Innovation at Statoil, as well as Statoil’s Corporate Liaison for the Techstars Energy Accelerator hosted in their Oslo office.



  • DATE: Thursday, April 12, 2018
  • TIME: 8:15 AM
  • TOPIC: Cross-Industry Learning – A Driver for Innovation


Festervoll will be discussing:

  1. Innovation – hype or hope
  2. Digitization – opportunity or disruption
  3. Industrial interconnectedness accelerating, making innovation an imperative


See the agenda for the rest of the day here.



Festervoll has 17 years of experience in the energy sector as a consultant and professional across the energy value chain, primarily in oil and gas. He has worked as a Program Manager to set up Statoil’s recently established Digital Centre of Excellence. Prior to that, Festervoll was Vice President for Corporate Strategy in Statoil. In addition, he has held a number of positions from gas trading, business development and analysis in Norsk Hydro and Statoil. Festervoll has a keen interest in innovation, digitalization and change management; and holds a Masters in Economics from the University of Oslo and University of Essex. Festervoll sits on the Board of Subsea Valley Cluster, a Norwegian Centre of Expertise technology cluster delivering world leading engineering from subsea to space.




Techstars Energy is a global mentor-driven accelerator for innovators and entrepreneurs aspiring to shape  the future of energy.  The Accelerator is a partnership between Statoil, Techstars, KONGSBERG, and McKinsey & Company giving the participating start-ups access to a unique network to drive their business forward. Learn more about the partnership here.





Alex Reed, co-founder and CEO of Fluence Analytics, is a leading entrepreneur and technology innovator in the advanced manufacturing and chemicals industry. Hank Torbert, a founder of The Frontier Conference, interviews him about how his New Orleans-based company has sustained itself in a changing sector.


Alex, you are the founder one of, in my opinion, the most impressive industrial emerging company in our area. Can you tell me a little about Fluence Analytics, your team and how it was started in New Orleans?

Fluence Analytics is a spin-out from Tulane University that delivers hardware and software products for the measurement and control of polymer and biopharmaceutical processes. The foundational technologies were invented at Tulane University by  Wayne Reed, a longtime physics faculty member. Over the years, federal, state and corporate sources funded his work which positioned us to spin out in 2012 and commercialize these pioneering technologies. We have 12 issued patents and 35 pending applications to date and are very focused on innovation and technology. (Reed) is also my father, so I grew up hearing about his research and worked with him in the lab. Later, after graduating from Tulane, I took on the role of the entrepreneur leading the business. We co-founded the business with Mike Drenski, our chief technical officer, and Bill Bottoms, our chairman. Since then, we have continued to grow and build out an incredible team of very talented scientists and engineers from diverse backgrounds. We truly have an exceptional group of people and are very excited about the opportunities ahead.

The chemicals industry is rapidly transforming through mergers, increased research and development, etc. What is driving innovation in the chemicals sector? Who is leading the development of new technologies?

There are many factors driving innovation in the chemicals space. Many of these come from the ever-expanding opportunities for materials in advanced applications such as lightweight materials, energy storage, 3-D printing, etc. As material properties are improved through new types of chemistry and improving advancements in enabling manufacturing technologies, their applications are expanded into more and more complex areas. On the other side, there is much M&A activity, which constantly changes the industry and the players. Sometimes it also provides opportunities for cultural and technological cross-pollination. However, it is much harder to understand the impact on innovation from M&A in general.

In your view, where will we see the greatest disruption in the chemicals sector?

Operationally, once a solid foundation of use cases can be built, automation, data analytics and connected technologies (what many are calling Industrial Internet of Things) will have a significant impact on efficiency, quality and end product composition. Hyper-specialized applications and unique business models to take advantage of smaller (modular), higher value production will be developed in certain markets. Even transformation of performance properties for commodity products will drive further innovation on the chemistry. We have also seen a wave of new synthesis pathways for chemical feedstocks and computer models in the lab capable of running ‘experiments’ without requiring physical experiments.

Fluence Analytics is a great example of when an innovation eco-system works optimally and keystakeholders (universities, angel investors, advisors) develop and support the emergence of a company. How did these efforts help you to form and grow Fluence?

We were very fortunate to have a base of multinational chemical and pharma companies supporting original R&D efforts while at the university. We also benefited tremendously from the networks at Tulane and in the local ecosystem. From Tulane, we had support and introductions from the Office of Technology Transfer, and I gained access to mentorship from our chairman and many others. Locally, participating in the Idea Village accelerator and working for many years with the New Orleans BioInnnovation Center, including financial support from the BioFund, have also been very helpful to our growth. Additionally, there were several beneficial tax credits and state programs from Louisiana Economic Development that helped, including SBIR R&D, Technology Commercialization and Software Development Tax Credits as well Economic Gardening and CEO Roundtables. We also benefitted from competitive federal grants for technology development from the U.S. Department of Energy and National Science Foundation. Finally, some of the early financing, prior to our institutional round, was primarily a group of local investors. Overall, we have received a lot of support and assistance from many sources.

As we seek to create and industrial innovation eco-system in New Orleans, how important is it for us to support the commercialization and tech transfer efforts our universities? What can we do better?

University tech transfer and talent development is critical for this type of activity.  Universities, if presented with the appropriate problem sets, can produce highly impactful technology for many industrial areas. Linking faculty, and especially students, to real world problems that need to be solved would be a big support of this effort. This requires industry interaction and experts defining critical need areas. Overall, the ecosystem is very supportive and receptive of viable business ideas, so more of these is the logical place to start.

You have deep knowledge of chemicals and manufacturing sectors We all talk about expanding advanced manufacturing sector in Louisiana. Is that viable? What types of companies would benefit?

Yes, it is possible with the right focus areas and investments. Some of the areas that have seen major success in similar or parallel industries were often catalyzed by a major state or federal investment in partnership with key stakeholders. It is no secret that Louisiana has a lot of manufacturing and related industries, and pulling it all together to find common areas through a coordinated effort would drive a lot of this. With the right environment, as seen in other innovation focused metro areas, the entire value chain would benefit from small manufacturers and technical service providers all the way through large, established manufacturers adopting new technology.

What’s the future for Fluence Analytics? The company has grown rapidly, and you have an amazing team.

We have launched new generations of our products and have now focused on several key markets to drive growth. We will be very focused on those efforts in the near term to grow the business while continuing to advance our technologies.



View the interview here:


February 23, 2018

The Frontier returns April 11-13, 2018
at the Contemporary Arts Center in New Orleans, Louisiana.


Event agenda has been posted on our website, see it here. More details will be continuously added. Stay tuned for updates.


The Frontier is a New Orleans based two-day destination conference for up and coming leaders in the industrial world, including the world’s top innovators, thinkers, executives, visionaries, investors, and entrepreneurs to cross-pollinate and re-think the future of industrials.

In 2017, over 100 organizations with decision makers representing 20 states visited New Orleans to learn, connect, and re-think innovation across eight major industrial disciplines. Join us for the next edition of The Frontier 2018 as we engage an even wider spectrum of disciplines shaping the future of the industrial world.


  • Engage with other industrial leaders like you
  • See the latest innovations attacking your market
  • Meet customers and investors
  • Make an idea, a reality


Remember to

We look forward to seeing you at the conference.