Tech Launch Arizona was established early last year to ensure that good ideas developed by University of Arizona researchers do not live and die in laboratories or grow dusty on bookshelves but enter the market for public benefit.
In its first full fiscal year of operations, TLA executed 39 exclusive licenses and options for 72 total licenses overall; filed 167 patents; aided faculty inventors in 188 invention disclosures; helped create 11 startup companies; received 24 patents; and supported the funding of 19 proof-of-concept projects.
Such accomplishments include a UA researcher licensing a technology developed for an eco-friendly substitute for cement, an exclusive license agreement for a company that is improving natural skin cancer prevention and involvement in the launch of the Defense and Security Research Institute, which will establish more partnerships between the UA and industry.
“Fiscal year 2014 was our first full year with a complete team, new procedures and new programs in support of securing and protecting UA intellectual property and licensing it to existing and new companies,” said David Allen, vice president of TLA.
“We have continued to build upon the previous new approaches and success of last year, and every indication is that this fiscal year we will appreciably exceed the performance of last,” Allen said. “We are pleased with the way the University and technology business community has stepped up to become involved and help.”
Allen noted that the UA in 2012 established 55 objectives, and many of those goals have been met. In the coming year, the Arizona Board of Regents set goals for TLA that include delivering at least 190 invention disclosures, 17 patents and 10 new companies.
Also, TLA will continue to develop the Catapult Corporation, which invests in new companies based on UA-born technologies. The unit also will host a two-day summit during the spring, bringing together 50 thought leaders in university technology commercialization from across the country. TLA also will initiate a long-term financial strategy to leverage the returns generated from the Tech Parks.
Related to such activities, the in-house language often evoked is that TLA is “creating an innovation ecosystem” involving partners across the city, in business and industry and also within the general community.
In doing so, TLA supports UA researchers as they patent, license and market new intellectual property, moving technologies into the marketplace. TLA also negotiates agreements with companies, whether they be startups or existing, and it cultivates and maintains relationships with partners capable of leveraging knowledge and talent at the UA.
To expand the number of UA researchers engaged in intellectual property activities, TLA developed a guide to help researchers evaluate their inventions, and it maintains a steady calendar of workshops and other events to develop the entrepreneurial activity across campus. TLA also has embedded intellectual property experts in colleges across campus, providing easier access for faculty to learn about copyright, trademark and patent strategies, and helping them through the process of protecting their inventions.
In support of student researchers, TLA has introduced several internship and fellowship programs for those interested in learning about and engaging in entrepreneurship, startup development and the technical side of commercialization.
Also part of TLA is Wheelhouse, the University’s new-ventures group, which connects researchers with business leaders to take new technologies to market, with a focus on startups.
Given the UA’s expansive and diverse research enterprise, having a robust network to provide key guidance and timely industry insights helps move along inventions, said Wheelhouse director Sherry Hoskinson.
“The Wheelhouse network provides TLA with access to in-depth understanding on groundbreaking technologies. That represents a human capital diversity that cannot be purchased, and is a remarkable resource,” Hoskinson said.
Hoskinson said the continued growth of commercialization activities would aid not only the UA but the broader community.
“UA commercialization activities play important and very distinct roles at the University in strengthening the overall research environment, attracting and retaining top-quality faculty and students as well as making economic and social contributions,” Hoskinson said.
“The impact of a globally competitive regional economy is essential for a healthy community today. No one can argue the impact on lives and well-being by the life-changing inventions and discoveries that are available for use because a solid commercial pathway was envisioned and enabled.”