By Jeff Harrison
The University of Arizona is creating a nonprofit corporation that will help move innovations created at the University into the marketplace as well as develop new companies, create jobs and keep them in Arizona. Meredith Hay, UA executive vice president and provost, made the announcement at the IdeaFunding conference in Tucson this October.
The initiative will combine technology transfer and new business development with improved and coordinated support for businesses, colleges, faculty and others. Hay described it as building an “innovation ecosystem” at the UA.
The tentatively named University of Arizona Research Corporation, or UARC, will, over the next six months, include the functions of the existing Office of Technology Transfer, add new functions for new venture formation, and will run under the auspices of theUniversity of Arizona Foundation.
Hay said she and UA President Robert N. Shelton have “committed to rejuvenating and expanding the University’s tech transfer commercialization activities.” The University, she said, needs to do a better job of translating $600 million in annual research funding into commercial products and services.
Improved commercialization of UA research will create jobs for Arizona and help diversify the state’s economy, Hay said. “It is fundamental to our mission as Arizona’s land grant university to apply our discoveries to society to improve the lives and livelihoods of the people of Arizona.”
Nationwide, universities organize their tech transfer activities in a number of different ways. The UA’s tech transfer office currently is bound by regulations that govern how state agencies conduct business. A number of schools run their tech transfer activities under the structure of a 501(c)(3) corporation. Hay said this allows them greater flexibility in working with faculty on their ideas, developing relationships with companies and doing business generally.
A key function for UARC, Hay said, will be identifying and developing “spinout companies that are suitable for venture capital financing and working to keep those new companies here in Arizona.” It would also be working closely with local industries such as sanofi-aventis, Roche Ventana Medical Systems, Raytheon, and others to create strong partnerships to accelerate getting new therapies, devices, and inventions into the marketplace.
UARC also will have tech transfer offices embedded in a number of colleges on campus, similar to one already at the BIO5 Institute. Those offices will work with scientists and researchers, know what is going on in their laboratories and what their grants are, and see what opportunities are available for commercializing.
“What we hope to create is a change in the culture at the University of Arizona that will enable scientists and researchers to more easily commercialize their discoveries and take their ideas to the marketplace,” Hay said. ”We want researchers to get excited about the opportunity and the ability to actually make a huge impact on society based on their discoveries, while also creating jobs for Arizona.”