A Celebration of Innovation

April 1, 2011

When it comes to solving the challenges of today as well as driving the successes of tomorrow, the primary force at work is that human drive we call innovation.

On Tuesday, March 29, the UA—Arizona’s premier center for academic research and development—celebrated our top achievers. Innovation Day, now in its eight year, has the goals of recognizing faculty and students at the leading edge of their fields, encouraging an entrepreneurial spirit on campus and introducing members of the community to the relevance of UA research in their own lives.

The events of Innovation Day were all open to the public, allowing businesses, entrepreneurs, policy makers, and anyone interested in learning how the University’s top minds are driving innovation in fields like cancer research, nanotechnology, pharmacology and environmental stewardship.

The day began with a showcase of short videos highlighting the best of the University’s Leading Edge research. This year, the even showcased researchers who have demonstrated excellence in the areas of technology and innovation, including:

  • David S. Alberts, M.D. who focuses on translational cancer prevention and treatment improving the quality of life for cancer patients

  • Neal R. Armstrong, Ph.D. who explores the interface science of emerging thin film solar cell technologies ultimately allowing most of the surfaces in our living space to harvest solar energy.

  • Erica L. Corral, Ph.D. who focuses on high-temperature materials for use in extreme environmental applications such as in aerospace vehicles.      

  • Christopher Hulme, Ph.D. whose work is enabling drug discovery through the development of a diverse compound library using efficient methods.

  • Mary M. Poulton, Ph.D. who directs the Lowell Institute for Mineral Resources, spanning science, engineering, health, business, and policy to ensure responsible stewardship and development of the Earth’s mineral resources.

The celebration of University of Arizona innovation continued with the Technology Innovation Awards Luncheon which honored the best faculty and student for their achievements in translating original ideas from the laboratory to the marketplace. This year, the “Innovators of the Year” included:

  • Dr. Evan Unger, Professor of Radiology and Biomedical Engineering; Director of Body Imaging for the Department of Radiology; Co-Director of the Arizona Cancer Center’s Cancer Imaging Program. Dr. Unger exemplifies the ideal of a technology innovator at the University of Arizona. Dr. Unger has pioneered original research, championed the clinical translation of his research products, and founded companies in the technology-based private sector to market these products. His products are routinely used in clinical diagnostic tests that impact the lives of Arizonans and improve healthcare world-wide.

  • Jared Moore, a final-year PhD candidate in Optical Sciences. Moore has been the leading force in the invention and development of a new high-resolution pre-clinical x-ray computed tomography (CT) system that has unique capabilities beyond any commercially available product. He has designed and constructed an adaptive, pre-clinical x-ray CT system named FaCT, which can adjust its magnification and field of view, as well as its emitted x-ray beam illumination profile according to the object being imaged.

The celebration of University of Arizona innovation continued with a keynote speech delivered by Dr. Leslie P. Tolbert, Vice President for Research, Graduate Studies, and Economic Development. The keynote speech, “Rapid Change in the Partnership between Universities and the Private Sector in Innovation and Commercialization: Meeting the Challenge” was presented during the awards luncheon.

Following the luncheon, the Innovation Showcase highlighted student companies from the McGuire Entrepreneurship Program, start-up companies from the Arizona Center for Innovation and UA Departments. A Technology Assessment booth was also available during Innovation Showcase which allowed attendees to vet their invention or product concepts one-on-one with experts in the area of technology transfer, early-stage angel investment, intellectual property, and business development and receive feedback.

The Innovation Showcase Awards recognized student teams who developed business plans from the McGuire Center for Entrepreneurship at the Eller College of Management. The companies were judged on various aspects of their business presentation. The People’s Choice Award was presented to the business venture that received the most Innovation Bucks from showcase attendees. BarSential, a smartphone application used to make payments and receive real-time discounts, received the People’s Choice award and $250 cash. Top student ventures overall were selected by a panel of judges comprised of angel investors and entrepreneurs. The three student teams to win Best Venture Presentation included: Velocis, Nutrition Hub, and S.A.B. Manufacturing.  These three student teams went on to formally present during the New Venture Presentations & Reception. Velocis, which manufactures and sells electric bicycles, was selected as the recipient of the Sanofi-Aventis Innovation Award. The team of four undergraduate students received $750 courtesy of Sanofi-Aventis.

The University also recognized three outstanding individuals for their extraordinary accomplishments in helpnig to advance innovation in our community and promite technology commercialization during their professional careers: Faculty Entrepreneur Dr. Michael Cusanovich, Industry Cluster Pioneer Bob Hagan and Incubation Leader Bo Statham.

Watch the photo slideshow of Innovation Day.