Bradley University Professor Named Inventor of the Year

Luke Haverhals, Ph.D., Research Professor in Bradley University's Mund-Lagowski Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, and CEO of Natural Fiber Welding, along with Aaron Amstutz, CTO of Natural Fiber Welding, have received a prestigious award for creating a new platform technology powered by sustainable plant-based materials. The duo has been awarded Inventor of the Year by the Intellectual Property Owners Education Foundation, a premiere international trade organization based in Washington D.C. A single technology wins this distinguished award each year, resulting in Haverhals and Amstutz entering a small, exclusive class that includes the inventors of CRISPR-CAS9 and the mRNA technology used in the COVID-19 vaccines.

Natural Fiber Welding’s mission is to “unlock nature’s potential, giving industries and innovators categorically new material platforms to create responsibly." These material platforms include CLARUS®, performance fabrics created from recycled or virgin natural fibers, and MIRUM®, a plant-based leather alternative that is perfect for accessories, automotive, fashion, footwear, and more. Natural Fiber Welding’s licensing and funding partners include companies such as Ralph Lauren and BMW i Ventures.

"It's thrilling to have forward-thinking Luke Haverhals and his colleague, Aaron Amstutz, recognized as Inventor of the Year by the IPO Education Foundation,” said Bradley President Stephen Standifird. “Their work in creating technology and unearthing nature's potential is an inspiration to our students, our community, and our country."

Bradley University assisted Haverhals in his journey to make Natural Fiber Welding a reality. In 2014, he approached the Illinois Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Bradley University for assistance on how to protect and commercialize his initial invention covering a process to “weld” natural fibers together. After starting Natural Fiber Welding, Haverhals leased a wet lab and office space at Peoria NEXT Innovation Center where the company continued to develop its technology for more than a year when it moved from the incubator into the Peoria community.

“Natural Fiber Welding embodies the breadth of work, assistance, and impact Bradley University's Turner Center for Entrepreneurship and the Peoria NEXT Innovation Center seek to provide to all clients,” said Mike Stubbs, director of Technology Commercialization, Illinois SBDC and director of Peoria NEXT Innovation Center. “Dr. Haverhals came to the Turner Center for assistance with how to make his invention (what would become pioneering, industry-forming technology) into an enterprise. From creating an early business model and forming intellectual property strategy to securing lab space and successfully selling internationally, three entities (the Turner Center, the Illinois SBDC at Bradley University, and the Peoria NEXT Innovation Center) have been partners in Dr. Haverhals' ability to make Natural Fiber Welding an international game changer."

“Having seen Dr. Haverhals grow from an idea into a company receiving this prestigious award makes all of us very proud of his team and their hard work,” added James Foley, director of Bradley’s Turner Center for Entrepreneurship.

Haverhals will appear on a future edition of the CBS Evening News to discuss the company's work. He will also be a guest on the Sept. 21 episode of IPOEF’s Stroke of Genius® podcast, where he will give an in-depth interview on his vision for a sustainable future and how intellectual property protections made it possible.

The following are the press releases about the award.

Photo of Luke Haverhals.

Photo of Aaron Amstutz.