Arizona startup acceleration program seeks entrepreneurs

September 30, 2013

The Arizona Commerce Authority and BioAccel – in conjunction with ASU’s Entrepreneurship & Innovation Group; Arizona Technology Enterprises; Northern Arizona University; Dignity Health in Arizona; and Mayo Clinic – invite entrepreneurs to apply for the second cohort of the Arizona Furnace Technology Transfer Accelerator. 

The Arizona Furnace Technology Transfer Accelerator is a competitive startup acceleration program designed to form, fund and launch new companies that are built on technologies and intellectual property licensed from Arizona’s premier research institutions. Furnace is currently seeking new and seasoned entrepreneurs to accelerate the commercialization of Arizona’s best technology assets into viable entities. Interested parties are invited to attend one of Furnace’s statewide information sessions to learn more. Download Full Image

Launched in September 2012, Furnace aims to improve the technology-transfer process for public and private research institutions, and make it easier for entrepreneurs to access research discoveries and intellectual property as the basis for new companies. Furnace offers several unique incentives for entrepreneurs and researchers to form a company and apply to the accelerator, including:

• More than 100 compelling technologies that are easily searchable, understandable and ready to be licensed and brought to market by new startup management teams.

• More than $100,000 in cash and services to winning management teams, including a $25,000 seed grant, nine months of complimentary incubation space and acceleration programming led by top industry mentors.

• A culminating Demo Day event for all supported ventures designed to facilitate follow-on funding deals, mergers, acquisitions or accelerated sales and growth.

“At the core of the Furnace program are the partner institutions that have incredible discoveries sitting on the shelf,” said Charlie Lewis, vice president of venture development for Arizona Technology Enterprises, ASU’s technology transfer arm. “Furnace is designed for serial entrepreneurs, business people and researchers to look at an unencumbered technology and see the potential for commercializing that technology and using it as the basis for forming a new company.”

Furnace’s pilot cohort launched in November 2012. With funding support provided by the Arizona Commerce Authority and BioAccel, 10 teams made up of external entrepreneurs and university researchers and faculty received a prize package that totaled close to $100,000 in cash and services, including a $25,000 seed-funding grant, access to more than 250 top industry mentors and six months of acceleration support with access to designated incubation space throughout Arizona.

“The goal for the second round of Furnace is to increase the number of startup teams that apply to and are funded by the accelerator,” said Brent Sebold, the furnace accelerator’s senior venture manager at ASU. “Furnace has added additional information sessions throughout Arizona and developed a new online platform to share available technologies and provide as many opportunities as possible for interested entrepreneurs and researchers to learn more about the program and apply.”

“Technologies available for commercialization have been uploaded to a new proprietary social media-enabled marketing platform which allows interested applicants to easily search and identify technologies that best align with their commercialization interests and strengths.” Sebold said. The technology showcase platform will be demonstrated at each of the Furnace state-wide information sessions prior to the November 12, 2013 application deadline.

To begin searching available technologies or to RSVP for an information session, visit

Arizona Furnace is a statewide initiative to drive economic development through the creation of high-potential research-based startups. It is supported by Northern Arizona University, the University of Arizona, Dignity Health, Thunderbird School of Global Management and Science Foundation Arizona. Arizona Furnace is run by the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Group at ASU, the university unit created as a joint initiative between the Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development and Arizona Technology Enterprises to accelerate high-potential startup companies.

ASU researchers develop sustainable ways to manage locust outbreaks worldwide

September 30, 2013

Locust swarms may seem like a distant chapter from history, but these devastating insects still present a major threat in today’s world. They jeopardize food security throughout the Middle East, Asia, Africa and Australia. Locusts, particularly desert locusts, ravage crops and impact livestock – costing countries billions of dollars in lost harvests and eradication efforts.

A team of scientists from Arizona State, Colorado State, McGill and Yale universities is launching a new collaborative project to learn how human behavior, market forces and ecological systems interact over time to affect the outcomes of locust swarms. The researchers will conduct studies in China, Senegal and Australia – countries that depend on livestock production and are home to locust outbreaks that may be linked to degraded livestock pastures. A locust sits in a heavily grazed grassland in China. Download Full Image

The National Science Foundation is funding the four-year, $955,000 project through its Dynamics of Coupled Natural and Human Systems program.

“We are building on our previous research in China that demonstrated that overgrazing rangelands promotes locust outbreaks, in part because overgrazing lowers the amount of nitrogen in plants,” says Arianne Cease, a physiological ecologist with ASU’s School of Life Sciences and lead researcher on the project. Surprisingly, plants with lower nitrogen content allow locusts to multiply and form devastating swarms – a situation often caused by overgrazing.

“We understand how important it is to look at the whole picture and we’re excited about the project’s potential,” adds Cease, who is also a research associate with the University of Sydney. “We need a better understanding of the links between overgrazing and locusts. And, from a social perspective, we also need a unified framework to implement what we find into practice in each of the regions in a way that improves the lives of local farmers and the longevity of the grasslands.”

The diverse research team of three biologists and three social scientists will search for answers to two main questions: First, how do the relationship between insects and nutrients, as well as livestock grazing strategies, interact to affect food prices, food security and rangeland degradation? And second, how do property rights and ownership affect society’s ability to respond to the link between overgrazing and locust outbreaks?

“It is commonly believed that people don’t have incentives to care for things that are ‘owned’ collectively,” says Eli Fenichel, a Yale assistant professor, who studies the connections between economic and ecological systems. “However, with what we are learning about locusts, it seems possible that short-sighted environmental management may cause future damage to a community’s economic resources, and also crises for neighboring communities. So the more we learn about these systems, the more it seems that we can turn the study of ecology into a direct cost/benefit for society as a whole.”

The team’s goals are to learn how best to minimize locust outbreaks and to use this knowledge in working with regional governments and communities to devise additional tools for managing the swarms differently. The scientists also want to understand what causes the locust population buildups that lead to migratory swarms.

“A lot of research looks at the deconstructed pieces of a problem and not the larger scale,” says Brian Robinson, an assistant professor at McGill University. “It’s important to find connections between the pieces and, with our research team, we have the people in place to do that. Managing grasslands may help manage locusts, as well as minimize crop and feed loss for animals. But we need to understand how best to do these things on the ground and how management must be adapted to different ecological and social contexts.”

To develop new and sustainable management strategies, the team will study livestock markets, grazing practices, grass ecology and property rights in relationship to locust dynamics.

The study will include the efforts of five ASU undergraduate researchers and two doctoral students from Yale and Colorado State universities. The students will work with ASU School of Life Sciences Professors Jon Harrison and James Elser and may travel to China, Senegal or Australia during their research training.

Along with Cease, the research team includes: Elser, an ASU ecologist; Harrison, an ASU physiologist; Fenichel, a Yale bioeconomist; Robinson, a McGill ecosystem services researcher; and Joleen Hadrich, an agricultural economist with Colorado State University.

This project is funded by NSF grant #1313693. School of Life Sciences is an academic unit of ASU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Sandra Leander

Assistant Director of Media Relations, ASU Knowledge Enterprise