Have an idea for an invention? Move it forward with Asset Development funding
In the 10 years of its existence, Tech Launch Arizona – the office that commercializes inventions arising from University research and innovation – has worked with hundreds of inventors on more than 2,500 inventions.
"If a member of our community has a great invention, we want to help develop it and get it out into the world, where it can create impact," said Doug Hockstad, associate vice president for TLA. "And we have funding available to help make it happen."
TLA's commercialization efforts include the launches of more than 130 startups and the licensing of more than 500 inventions to startups and existing companies bringing them to market. All this work results in $1.6 billion in economic output, according to an economic impact report commissioned by Tech Launch Arizona.
To move innovations forward, TLA has a number of resources, such as market research, intellectual property protection, startup support and mentoring for inventors and startup teams.
But one of the most valuable, and sometimes underutilized, resources is TLA's Asset Development Program, Hockstad says.
"Since most inventions are so early stage, they're often not ready to be licensed," he said. "They're not ready for a company or startup to take them forward yet, so they need an infusion of funds to take the next step and to remove some of the risk associated with commercializing new technologies."
$1.5 million available to researchers and graduate students
The Asset Development Program provides funding for projects designed to answer key questions about inventions and prepare them for a company to adopt them into their product pipeline.
Such questions could be: Is there a prototype so a company can see it in action? Is there a feasibility study that proves it can be done? Can the invention be produced and function at scale?
Asset development funding can be applied to answer these questions and many more, but the goal is always to further validate or advance the innovation to reduce risk and make it attractive for the marketplace.
Projects span many fields of academia, from life sciences to physical sciences to software and copyright.
Jeffrey Pyun, professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, and Robert Norwood, professor in the James C. Wyant College of Optical Sciences, recently completed a proof-of-concept project using asset development funding. With the support, they were able to develop a new magneto-optical material composed of polymers and magnetic nanoparticle units that afforded remarkable optical properties.
The results from their short six-month proof-of-concept project enabled engagement with major tech companies like Microsoft and Apple, and Department of Defenase agencies, like the Air Force Research Laboratory, on possible applications of the materials for low energy consumption optical devices, Pyun said.
"The work also opened up the opportunity for us to submit a proposal for external funding and two high-profile publication," he added.
Steven Goldman, professor at the College of Medicine – Tucson and a member of Sarver Heart Center, also benefited from the program, which helped his team advance a cardiac patch to repair damaged heart muscle by providing the resources needed to further examine the patch's mechanisms of action.
"This work provided the data we needed to license the enhanced technology to our startup, Avery Therapeutics," Goldman said.
The asset development work also allowed the team to submit a grant application to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health, in October.
Funded partly by Technology and Research Initiative Fund money and through a share of the royalties produced through licensing, the TLA Asset Development Program has had a budget of $1 million a year. TLA, which falls under the Research, Innovation and Impact office, recently increased it to $1.5 million with the goal of supporting more, and larger, projects.
"The University is highly committed to helping inventors pursue these commercial pathways for creating impact from UA innovation," said Elizabeth "Betsy" Cantwell, senior vice president for research and innovation. "That's why we dedicate these funds and fully support our faculty and research community pursuing this kind of work."
Asset development project grant amounts can range from a few thousand dollars to $50,000 or more. Grants proposals can be reviewed and funded within weeks of acceptance of the application.
"The inventors we work with are employees that hail from every part of the University," Hockstad said. "From faculty to staff to graduate students, we serve every employee who has a great idea to bring to the world."
To date, more than 130 asset development projects have been completed. Projects TLA has funded include:
- Development of blood tests to detect cancer, developed at the College of Medicine – Tucson.
- A new tunable laser developed at the James C. Wyant College of Optical Sciences.
- Geopolymer bricks made from mine tailings, developed in the College of Engineering.
- Software for insider threat detection, developed in the Department of Management Information Systems in the Eller College of Management'.
More than 30% of the funded and completed projects have been licensed. An additional 20% are ready to be licensed.
Applying for asset development funds
Applicants start by speaking with one of TLA's expert licensing managers, who are matched with applicants based on their expertise. Together, they create an asset development proposal.
Funding is available throughout the year and there are no specific proposal deadlines. Proposals are reviewed by TLA team members as well as a team of outside industry experts and experienced entrepreneurs who provide feedback on each proposal.
For more information about submitting a proposal, contact Paul Tumarkin, assistant director of marketing and communications, at email@example.com.