Bringing University of Arizona Technological Advances to Market

December 21, 2012

Technology commercialization expert David N. Allen, PhD, believes the University of Arizona creates outstanding research.

His job, as the executive director of Tech Launch Arizona, is to build a dynamic organization that works with researchers to identify and protect their inventions derived from research and with the business community to successfully develop and commercialize products derived from those inventions.

“The University of Arizona is a robust research enterprise,” says Allen, who joined the new Tech Launch Arizona in September 2012 as its first executive director. “Faculty perform at the highest levels of their particular research domains.”

Technology Partnerships Sought

Where the UA is turning to the business community is for help in forming partnerships with companies that can help the university understand the market for specific technology.

“We want to build teams of volunteers that are subject-matter domain experts, that will help us understand the market drivers that relate to the technology that is emerging off the research bench,” says Allen.

These domain experts are typically specialists in business development, technology strategy, intellectual property management and licensing, product development, technology marketing, venture capital, management consulting and prototyping.

Role of Tech Launch Arizona

Tech Launch Arizona (TLA) is comprised of three different offices and provides overall coordination of those offices to promote UA engagements with the technology industry. 

First is the Office of Technology Transfer (OTT). The TLA director of Commercialization Networks and Operations, Sherry Hoskinson, will work with OTT staff to advance the commercialization process from lab research through early development and patent prosecution to identifying a business licensee that will further develop and commercialize the intellectual property.

Second is the Office of Corporate and Business Relations, directed by Nancy Smith. This office works with technology companies and UA faculty to build research oriented relationships.

Third, the Office of University Research Parks, led by Associate Vice President Bruce Wright, manages the two UA research parks, the UA Tech Park at 1-10 and Rita Road, and the UA Bio Park at 36th Street and Kino Parkway. An important component of the Tech Park is the Arizona Center for Innovation, a business incubator and innovation center that provides space and assistance to early-stage technology companies, many of which are derived from UA research.

TLA serves to coordinate the activities of these units for the benefit of UA.  It’s the university’s effort to help faculty in the difficult process of transforming their research and subsequent inventions into practical applications. Interested businesses and investors in various industries also can engage TLA to find opportunities to participate in commercializing the research conducted at the university.

Some early TLA activities include

  • Proof of Concept funding for faculty members to do early technology development of their inventions
  • A new approach and resources that will involve outside patent counsel to file for UA patent applications and allow these patent applications to further mature by supporting patent prosecution
  • Greatly expanding the approach of embedding technology licensing managers in research intensive colleges and the Bio5 Institute
  • A UA reorganization and coordination that bring the three functions mentioned above under the cabinet-level program.

Allen’s Deep Experience

Allen’s 30 years of technology commercialization and management experience brings in-depth expertise and demonstrated achievement to the UA.

He worked in technology development and commercialization at Ohio State University and Ohio University. Previous to those institutions he was an assistant professor of entrepreneurship at The Pennsylvania State University, where he did research in university commercialization.

Allen came to the UA most recently from the University of Colorado (CU), where he served 10 years as associate vice president for technology transfer. The efforts of the team he created resulted in 2,120 invention disclosures, 1,420 patent filings, 325 exclusive licenses and options and 93 start-up companies.

The UA is about where the CU was 10 years ago, he observes. A lot of processes and procedures are going to change.

“The university has provided the resources to take us to another level,” he says.  “We have mounted a herculean effort to make technology commercialization important and productive for UA” Allen adds. He’s heartened by the UA’s and the business community’s commitment to TLA.