Thursday, July 25, 2013

UofW research to market success

Successful technology implementations have climbed the past two years at University of Washington's technology incubator, Center for Commercialization (C4C). UofW has climbed into the highest groups of universities converting its research to commercial ventures.

Drew Atkins at Crosscut

This year the University of Washington catapulted into the top five universities in the country for commercialization efforts, up from 15th place only two years ago. This puts the university on par with such colleges as MIT, UCLA and Columbia University in using research acumen to incubate new businesses within the school.

At a press conference attended by Congressional delegations, tech industry leaders and local luminaries like Bill Gates Sr., UW President Michael Young announced that this was the most productive year in UW’s history for forming new companies. Seventeen new companies were unveiled, more than double the average number created over the past five years. According to Fred B. Holt, director of strategic initiatives at the C4C, that’s only the tip of the iceberg.

“In previous years, the survival rates of these UW start-ups was roughly 50-50,” Holt said. “Now it’s closer to 80 percent surviving. Not only are we getting more start-ups going now, but we’re launching ones that will last, and have a greater chance of success.”

Holt attributes the dramatic jump in both start-up quantity and quality to the C4C bringing more outside, non-academic voices into the fray. The C4C is designed to help UW researchers commercialize their work, and recently the center has prioritized exposing researchers to entrepreneurs-in-residence and angel investor groups. Holt said these provide “tough but friendly voices” to push along the business pitches and prospects of worthy projects.

While he believes some of these start-ups have the potential to make their creators rich, Holt said that’s less of a priority for the university. Instead, he believes the achievement will help position the university to attract top talent, and to justify its status as the top federally funded public research university.

Commercialization sometimes makes its creators rich, but the opportunity for iit also helps to attract top faculty.

“When the world’s best researchers are looking into where they want to continue their career, they often ask what does a university’s incubator program look like, and how is it nurturing success?” said Holt. “The success of the C4C makes us competitive with colleges like Stanford, MIT and Carnegie Melon. Further, with increased federal focus on innovation research, the question is always 'Where are the results? How does this fit into real life?' These startups demonstrate and can deliver real-world impact.”

For example, Nortis in biotech, SecondWind in building energy conservation and Stella Therapeutics fighting brain cancer.

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