University of South Florida


 Synapse showcases USF’s leadership in the tech industry

Synapse showcases USF’s leadership in the tech industry

By: Cassidy Delamarter, University Communications and Marketing

Dozens of USF tech experts, colleges, departments and startup companies transformed Amalie Arena into a dynamic hub of innovation at Synapse 2024. The seventh annual premier Florida technology conference was packed with cutting-edge technology, entrepreneurs and investors with a common goal to drive economic growth and advance technology in Florida. 

“The conditions in the Sunshine State are favorable for entrepreneurs and innovators for many reasons – one of the most significant being our higher education system,” said USF President Rhea Law while speaking to the crowd of 6,000 attendees at Synapse. “At USF, we are solving global challenges, improving lives, and creating a healthier future – and we’re doing this work in close partnership with our business and industry leaders in our communities.”

  • Synapse Co-founder Andy Hafer, President Rhea Law, Senior Vice President for University-Community Partnerships Eric Eisenberg

  • USF Connect

  • Rocky and USF student

  • Synapse was filled with interactive opportunities for attendees

  • Synapse’s first-ever “Bull Zone” dedicated to spotlighting USF researchers and entrepreneurs 

With USF’s largest presence yet, the conference highlighted the university’s endeavors and collaborative initiatives that are shaping the future of technology in Tampa Bay. A notable addition to this year's event was Synapse’s first-ever “Bull Zone” dedicated to spotlighting the inventive prowess of USF researchers and entrepreneurs, inviting attendees to engage with the experts and explore groundbreaking ideas firsthand.


Institute of Applied Engineering

Throughout the arena, USF featured a diverse array of initiatives, including interactive demonstrations of advanced technologies and engaging discussions led by renowned faculty and industry experts. USF’s Global and National Security Institute and Institute of Applied Engineering were both onsite to explain their state-of-the-art equipment, meet inventors and further their collaborations with the community.

“We’re able to grow the university’s research and innovation ecosystem because of the partnerships here,” said Taylor Johnston, chief operations officer of the Institute of Applied Engineering. In addition to attracting top talent to the Tampa Bay area, the institute is also instilling an entrepreneurial mindset within their USF student interns – an effort also recognized at Synapse. 

“There is a lot of young talent that is walking around that is being exposed to the startup mentality and the tech that is out there,” Johnston said.


PolyMaterials App, LLC team

Attendees had the opportunity to explore a variety of USF innovations, including eight companies from the USF Connect Tampa Bay Technology Incubator.

For startup owner Manoj Kumar Ram, Synapse was an opportunity to demonstrate his latest and most developed product in front of investors and businesses interested in energy storage technologies – inventions he made during his tenure as an associate research professor at the USF College of Engineering. 

“It led to the creation of my startup company,” said Ram, now the founder and CEO of PolyMaterials App, LLC. Housed inside USF’s Research Park – a growing community hub for biotechnology, life sciences research and entrepreneurship – Ram’s startup is making cutting-edge technologies more easily accessible for inventors. 

“My main inspiration was to develop technologies to deliver to the public and private sectors. The Tampa Bay Technology Incubator offers incredible networking opportunities that have led to unexpected partnerships and collaborations that would not have been possible otherwise,” Ram said.


Michael Wiemer with President Law

“USF is an integral part of the innovation community not only in Tampa Bay and the Synapse community, but nationally as well,” said Synapse CEO Lauren Prager. “They provide incredible talent, technology, research and entrepreneurial support that powers the ecosystem. We're thrilled that USF again has such a significant presence at Synapse Summit as the networking lounge host.”

Among the 145 speakers, 40 sessions and more than 150 exhibitors, Michael Wiemer, director of the USF Fintech Center at the Kate Tiedemann School of Business and Finance, led a discussion about USF’s role in driving technological innovation in Tampa Bay and cultivating the next generation of tech leaders. Wiemer says Synpase is an opportunity to reflect on the university’s connection to the business community while developing innovative ideas and leading the conversation of what’s next in the future.

“We are helping to advance innovation in Tampa Bay and beyond,” Wiemer said. “That’s certainly part of our role as an R1 AAU university. We are here to support our community, but we also engage, we innovate and we collaborate.”

In addition to Wiemer, Kevin Sneed, dean of USF Health Taneja College of Pharmacy, was present in the "Bull Zone" and Matthew Anderson, director of the College of Medicine Obstetrics and Gynecology, spoke about cancer prevention and care in rural communities as an area in urgent need of innovation.

group photo with sarasota

President Rhea Law with Sarasota Cybersecurity Interdisciplinary Research Lab students and Director Jordan Howell, department of criminology assistant professor at USF Sarasota-Manatee.

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