Coreform: Finding Answers in Minutes Instead of Months

Jackie BorgetUtah Innovation Center

Coreform, a Utah-based company specializing in engineering simulation software, is transforming product design and testing. Unlike traditional testing methods that require creating and destroying physical prototypes, Coreform’s software allows engineers to simulate these processes digitally, saving time, money, and resources. Think Crash-Test Dummies, but the crashing and testing happens digitally using Coreform’s software. 

Coreform’s journey began a decade ago in the research lab of Dr. Michael Scott at the BYU Civil Engineering department. Dr. Scott, along with Dr. Derek Thomas and Dr. Kevin Tew, recognized the potential of direct Computer-Aided Design (CAD) simulation without the tedious meshing step, the process of subdividing a model into smaller pieces needed for simulation. The founders created next-generation software, transforming the simulation industry by accelerating the product development process allowing engineers to predict real-world behavior more quickly and economically. The company has grown significantly from its early days, partly due to its strategic use of the federal Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program, which has been instrumental in funding its research and development efforts.

“The chance to compete for SBIR funding is one of the biggest benefits of being a US taxpayer and a small business owner,” says Matt Sederberg, Coreform’s Chief Strategy Officer. He emphasizes that these grants are crucial for companies like Coreform, which operate in niche markets and require substantial investment over many years to develop their technology fully. Coreform strategically chooses solicitations that align with their commercial goals, which also helps fund their R&D. This approach has resulted in a high success rate in securing Phase I and II SBIR grants.

Sederberg listed several resources that have helped Coreform win SBIRs and succeed thus far as a company. Coreform’s collaboration with the Utah Innovation Center has significantly impacted its accomplishments. The center’s guidance and critique have been invaluable, especially in the early stages of their SBIR journey, as they received “brutal critiques of early applications.” Sederberg appreciated the rigorous feedback that helped refine their proposals and improve their chances of success. This support ensured their applications were well-prepared and met all requirements, avoiding administrative disqualification.

For those looking to secure Phase II funding, Sederberg shares valuable advice: obtaining strong letters of support from commercial customers is vital. These letters provide credibility and demonstrate market need, which are critical for convincing reviewers of the project’s viability. Moreover, Sederberg highlights the importance of genuine belief in the problem being solved, which should be evident in the grant proposals.

The TABA (Technical and Business Assistance) program has been another significant factor in Coreform’s success. Sederberg explains that they opted to select their own TABA provider, a highly respected consultant in their industry, rather than using the contracted provider. This consultant has become a strategic part of their team, offering invaluable insights and helping them stay relevant in the market. The TABA funds have allowed Coreform to access top-tier consultancy services at no cost to the company, significantly enhancing its business strategy and product development.

Coreform’s participation in the DOE Phase Shift program has also been instrumental. This program guides companies through the lean startup methodology, helping them validate their business models and refine their market strategies. Sederberg notes that the Phase Shift program encourages participants to interview numerous potential customers, which provides critical market insights and strengthens the business case for their innovations. This structured approach to market development has significantly increased Coreform’s chances of building a sustainable business.

Looking ahead, Coreform is proud of its achievements but remains focused on future goals. “Our ambition is to be the dominant simulation company in the next decade,” Sederberg states. With a solid product and a growing customer base, Coreform aims to revolutionize simulation workflows, making them more enjoyable and efficient for engineers worldwide. Their journey, supported by strategic use of SBIR/STTR grants, TABA funds, the Phase Shift program, and collaboration with the Utah Innovation Center, is a testament to the power of innovation and perseverance in the face of industry challenges.