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ASU engineering schools host Technology Showcase, build local partnerships

Graduate student Taraka Sai Pavan Grandhi gives attendees an update on the work and research for the lab of chemical engineering associate professor Kaushal Rege during the Technology Showcase. Photographer: Nick Narducci/ASU

December 30, 2015

Connecting university researchers with the larger business community can be a limiting factor in gaining research funding for applied technologies and ultimately creating new businesses and stimulating the local economy. The struggle often comes in connecting with potential industrial partners and learning about potential opportunities.

With that in mind, the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering and Arizona Technology Enterprise are helping coordinate an effort to connect these groups with the hope of spurring future funding opportunities and accelerating technology transfer. The initial effort came in the form of the Technology Showcase and Networkshop on Dec. 4, which brought together more than 90 participants from local and national industry, the Arizona business community and ASU faculty and researchers.

The goal was simple, break people out of their silos and help create possible collaborations and, eventually, new ventures in Arizona.

“In the last 10 years ASU has seen exponential expansion,” said Yong-Hang Zhang, associate dean for research in the Fulton Schools. “Our school has also enjoyed tremendous growth. I thought we should really do more in terms of collaborating with local industry, the local business community through tech development.”

The event was sponsored AdValue Photonics, Arizona Commerce Authority, Bank of America, Osborn Maledon, Lawrence Semiconductor Laboratory and Wafer Technology.

“We realize the value and asset of ASU,” said Tim Becker, a senior vice president for Bank of America. “We don’t think the community as a whole has told the story of ASU very well. We are very interested in helping tell that story with events like this.”

Other attendees, such as Jonathan Ariano, partner with the law firm Osborn Maledon, were interested in helping foster tech transfer from the universities to smaller companies and start-ups.

“The Arizona startup ecosystem has a bunch of different groups right now and I think a big part of that are the universities,” he said. “There’s a lot of tech coming out of the universities and it is really critical to get those commercialized. We represent the companies that are trying to do those commercializations, so, anything we can do to help get that technology out of the hands of university to startups, we want to be a part of."

On the faculty side, participants saw it as an opportunity to discuss their research efforts and meet with potential partners.

“I am here to meet with local leaders to see how we can better transfer ideas from Fulton out into the small businesses,” said engineering professor Tom Sugar. “We have done it but we don’t have a base here in Arizona like there is in the Silicon Valley. But hopefully Arizona can build that base here and students and faculty can really push to start companies.”

For Zhang, this is only the first step in building these relationships. He hopes to talk with the other organization and participants and determine future events. At the very least, the Technology Showcase will likely become an annual event. As one of the many follow-ups, the Fulton Schools and the Arizona Commerce Authority co-hosted an event to discuss the newly announced Naval Sea Systems Command SBIR/STTR, featuring a webinar streamed from Boston on Dec. 16.

The event drew more than 40 people from the Fulton Schools and the industry sector in the valley and Tucson. NAVSEA Program Officer Jonathan Laggett was in attendance and provided one-on-one advice to interested attendees on the structure and evaluation criteria of SBIR/STTR grants.

“It is heartening to see the Fulton Schools of Engineering taking such an important step in the right direction to provide a much needed platform for both industry and ASU build a long-lasting technology partnership,” said Jill Howard.

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