New center to bring UA ideas, tech to market

2011-11-29T00:00:00Z 2014-08-05T10:28:56Z New center to bring UA ideas, tech to marketCarol Ann Alaimo Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
November 29, 2011 12:00 am  • 

For the second time in just over a year, the University of Arizona has announced creation of a new center aimed at speeding up the time it takes to move new ideas and technologies from the research lab to the marketplace.

If the concept works, it eventually could help create more higher-paying jobs in Tucson.

The new entity announced Monday, called Tech Launch Arizona, will mark "a dramatic step forward in how the UA contributes to economic growth," UA President Eugene Sander said in a news release.

A search is expected to begin soon for someone to run the new center, which will assess the commercial viability of new research and technology at UA and help with key details such as licensing inventions and finding investors.

"We want to better harness all of the discovery going on at UA and to find ways to get these discoveries into the marketplace," said Len Jessup, dean of the university's Eller College of Management.

Under the new structure, UA offices and divisions related to technology transfer, licensing, prototyping and investment would be folded into Tech Launch Arizona.

Jessup will lead an eight-member search committee that will conduct a national search for an executive director of the new center. The executive director will report directly to Sander.

The new approach holds the promise of mutual benefit for both the UA - such as attracting more research grants - and for society at large, Jessup said.

Besides creating employment, the effort "also can be translated into products, services and companies that can ultimately save lives and preserve the planet," he said.

In October 2010, the UA announced the launch of a similar effort at an event attended by many local business leaders.

Plans at that time called for the new center to be named University of Arizona Research Corp., but the concept never came to fruition.

Leslie Tolbert, UA's senior vice president for research, said in an interview that certain aspects of the 2010 plan were later deemed impractical. The new effort announced Monday will be "much more financially viable," she said.

The UA already is making some efforts to help bring new methods and inventions to market.

A team at UA's Artificial Intelligence Lab, for example, created crime-fighting-analysis software that is widely used in law enforcement.

New drugs and treatments for various illnesses, and an improved CPR technique also have been invented at the university.

"We've had some successes, but we need to do this with greater force and vigor," Tolbert said.

Contact reporter Carol Ann Alaimo at calaimo@azstarnet.com or at 573-4138.

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