Two Carnegie Mellon Spin-off Companies Receive National Science Foundation Grants

Byron SpiceWednesday, May 12, 2010

PITTSBURGH-Two technology spin-off companies from Carnegie Mellon University, Safaba Translation Solutions LLC and SpiralGen Inc., have each received $150,000 Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase 1 grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Safaba, which has developed a software-as-a-service model that enables small- and medium-size language translation firms to take advantage of automated translation programs, and SpiralGen, which has automated major parts of the process for developing and optimizing software for signal processing and communications applications, have both received early support from the School of Computer Science's Project Olympus. Olympus aims to bridge the gap between academic research and commercialization by providing support, guidance, visibility and connections for companies at their earliest stages.

The SBIR awards, effective July 1, provide six months of funding to further develop products, explore their commercial potential and develop proposals for the next phase of SBIR support.

"NSF SBIRs are tough to get, so these awards reflect confidence by NSF officials in the quality of the innovation," said Lenore Blum, professor of computer science and director of Project Olympus.

"It is thrilling to see these companies graduate to the next level," said Babs Carryer, an embedded entrepreneur at Olympus who has affiliations with the Computer Science Department, the Tepper School of Business and the Heinz College.

Safaba,, was founded by Alon Lavie, associate research professor in the Language Technologies Institute, and Robert Olszewski, who earned his doctorate in computer science at Carnegie Mellon. Safaba also has received Carnegie Mellon support from its Center for Technology Transfer and Enterprise Creation and outside funding support from the Idea Foundry and the Greater Oakland Keystone Innovation Zone. Working in a strategic partnership with Echo International, a translation services company in Pittsburgh, Safaba produces software that helps translation companies expand their services and increase their productivity by incorporating machine translation tools that are customized to their needs.

SpiralGen,, was founded jointly by recent Carnegie Mellon Ph.D. alumnus Yevgen Voronenko and electrical and computer engineering professors José M.F. Moura, Markus Pueschel, Franz Franchetti and James C. Hoe. In 2009, SpiralGen was selected to receive a Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Award from the Office of Naval Research. Its technology automates the production and optimization of modular segments of software code, called libraries, that perform important, computationally demanding mathematical functions when called upon by computer applications. The automation reduces months of traditional manual library development and optimization time by 70 to 90 percent without sacrificing any performance compared to human-written code, ensures uniform high performance and quality, and enables faster porting to new platforms. SpiralGen's technology is particularly relevant with the recent shift to multi-core processors, which pose a difficult challenge for performance programmers.

Carnegie Mellon is responsible for more than 200 companies and 9,000 jobs that have been created in the Pittsburgh area during the last 15 years. Today, the university is one of the region's economic drivers, largest employers and centers of innovation, bringing cutting-edge companies and jobs to southwestern Pennsylvania. In 2008, Disney chose Carnegie Mellon as one of two locations in the world for its research labs. Carnegie Mellon's Collaborative Innovation Center is the only building in the world where Google, Intel, Apple and a Microsoft-sponsored research lab live under one roof.

Follow the School of Computer Science on Twitter @SCSatCMU. Follow Project Olympus on Twitter @projectolympus and on Facebook at

For More Information

Byron Spice | 412-268-9068 |