Start-Up Entrepreneurs Awarded Competitive Grant from NSF

Mar 8, 2019Press Release


Maria Ibañez

Start-Up Entrepreneurs Awarded Competitive Grant from NSF
Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program Provides Seed Funding for R&D

WASHINGTON DC, March 8, 2019 – Dr. Carol Hirschmugl and Dr. Marija Gajdardziska Josifovski, founders of university-incubated start-up SafeLi, LLC, and graduates of the Association for Women in Science’s (AWIS) STEM to Market (S2M) program, were awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant for $225,000. AWIS’ S2M program provides inclusive, equitable and productive opportunities and resources to help entrepreneurs take their product to market. Throughout their careers, AWIS member Dr. Hirschmugl and Dr. Gajdardziska-Josifovska have published hundreds of research articles in peer reviewed journals and have secured over $10M in funding for their work.

“Congratulations to Dr. Hirschmugl and Dr. Gajdardziska-Josifovska for being awarded this prestigious competitive grant from the National Science Foundation. Their work is revolutionary and will transform the global wireless marketplace for consumers and manufacturers. The combination of their extensive experience, learnings from AWIS’ STEM to Market program and this investment of SBIR and STTR funding is critical to help commercialize their first product,” said Sandra W. Robert, CAE, AWIS CEO.

Dr. Marija Gajdardziska Josifovski and
Dr. Carol Hirschmugl

SafeLi, LLC helps power wireless devices that draw energy from lithium ion batteries for users of electric vehicles, power tools and consumer electronics. They will use the NSF grant to conduct research and development (R&D) to scale up material production, build a pouch battery and demonstrate that larger batteries constructed with this material behave similarly to the original model.

“There are both small and large gaps between the skills needed to succeed in academia in the STEM disciplines and in business. The program and experiences with AWIS S2M were designed to fill in the gaps so that the SafeLi team is prepared to cross the chasm and be a successful venture. All of these different experiences have been part of the critical path to obtaining the SBIR and STTR funding that is key to getting SafeLi’s product to market,” said Dr. Hirschmugl.

Dr. Hirschmugl and Dr. Gajdardziska-Josifovska are professors in the Department of Physics at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM) with expertise in condensed matter physics, oxide materials, surface-bulk interactions, materials synthesis, and electron- and IR-based analysis, and are fellows of their learned societies. They have received other funding including a $155,000 Department of Energy STTR (Small Business Technology Transfer) Phase I grant from the Division of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy for developing GmO compositions for active anode materials in fast recharging applications for Electric Vehicles; a $75,000 SBIR ADVANCE grant from the State of Wisconsin; and $7,500 from the Vinetta Project pitch competition at a recent SEEDSPOT event co-hosted by AWIS. The NSF is an independent federal agency with a budget of about $7.8 billion that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering.



About AWIS: Founded in 1971, AWIS has been the leading advocate for women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) to achieve business growth, social change, and innovation. We are dedicated to driving excellence in STEM by achieving equity and full participation of women in all disciplines and across all employment sectors. In addition to scholarships, AWIS provides career resources, professional development, as well as networking, mentoring, and volunteer opportunities to build leadership skills. To learn more, visit and @AWISNational.


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