October 20, 2010
Nicolas Girard, Stevens Institute of Technology alumnus and founder of Stevens Start-up Attila Technologies, will be recognized this year with two inventing awards. Mr. Girard was named Inventor of the Year by the New Jersey Inventors Hall of Fame, and is a recipient, together with Stevens, of the 2010 Thomas Alva Edison Patent Award from the Research & Development Council of New Jersey.
Although he holds several patents in the United States and Europe, Mr. Girard's game-changing innovation is U.S. Patent #7,539,175, better known as the substance behind Attila Technologies. Attila's patented software allows mobile devices to simultaneously communicate over multiple wireless data networks and frequencies dynamically, thereby increasing capacity/bandwidth and the level of security and making its users exponentially less vulnerable to existing network limitations, disruptions, or network failures. One of a growing number of technology start-ups to come out of research at Stevens, Attila is currently managed by Frank Ianna '71, former President of Network Services at AT&T.
The impetus behind this patented platform is the alleviation of wireless customer pain, currently served millions of times daily on overworked wireless networks. According to Mr. Girard, existing wireless communications are modeled after wired communications, where each client has a 1:1 relationship with the network infrastructure. This outdated paradigm constrains users from traveling outside of specific boundaries without suffering on cost, bandwidth, or access, and is currently challenged by the proliferation of mobile devices.
"Early in the research cycle, we were cognizant of the limitations of that design, which drove our research goals towards providing an elegant technical solution to those issues," says Mr. Girard. "The market potential across multiple, large markets unlocked the funding for the initial research and restricted the scope of our technical ideas, as we strived to make the solution viable in the marketplace."
The French-born computer scientist worked in Europe as a network security expert for governmental agencies and computer security firms before moving the United States in search of greater funding opportunities for his original research. He claims that the U.S. provides a better environment to experience and access the full cycle of research, development, and commercialization of innovative technologies. In particular, Mr. Girard selected Stevens for his studies because of the school's standing as a research organization and the entrepreneurial spirit that Stevens enables and fosters.
"Where Stevens really makes a difference," Mr. Girard says, "is in their ability to attract experienced and savvy leaders from all industries. The experience and knowledge they bring is invaluable for entrepreneurs and directly drive the likelihood of success of any venture."
"Stevens has a proud history of innovation and entrepreneurship from the time Edwin A. Stevens started the University in 1870," says Malcolm Kahn, Vice President of Enterprise Development and Licensing at Stevens. "Attila is a great example of the University's focus as a leading research institution and how that effort can provide creative solutions to real-world problems. In addition, Stevens uses its start-up activities through a program called Technogenesis to enhance student-learning opportunities by engaging both technical and business students in these operations. This hands-on experience is unique and sets Stevens apart from other universities."
For ambitious research entrepreneurs like Mr. Girard, the institutional culture of entrepreneurship at Stevens is essential to success. Beyond providing financial support and laboratory space for exploration, the university actively encourages both students and faculty to develop their experimental research into market ventures. Stevens promotes communication between experts on campus and, as these ventures develop, funnels its promising students into professional engineering positions at the young companies.
As Mr. Girard embarks on a daring entrepreneurial adventure, he is pleased to see that his work is already accepted by New Jersey's inventing community. As Inventor of the Year and co-winner, with Stevens, of the Thomas Alva Edison Patent Award, Mr. Girard will also receive high-level exposure for his innovative technology and commercial venture.
"It is a great honor and a unique privilege to be recognized by your peers," he says. "It is what inventors strive for when they create solutions that ultimately have the opportunity to make the world a better place."