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NAU joins AZ Furnace, Arizona's new intellectual property accelerator

June 21, 2012

Arizona State University’s Venture Catalyst has announced that Northern Arizona University (NAU) has joined Arizona Furnace as the first university research partner. As a partner in AZ Furnace, NAU Innovations – NAU’s technology commercialization office – will offer selected technologies and intellectual property for licensing to entrepreneurs, with the intent that these technologies will form the basis for new high-potential startups.

AZ Furnace will offer high-potential startup ventures a package worth more than $50,000 in cash and services. The package includes a $25,000 seed funding grant and 6 months of incubation space in either the ASU SkySong facility or at NAU’s partner incubator, the Northern Arizona Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology (NACET). Furnace is an intensive, 6-month, mentor-led accelerator program, and includes several additional support services. Companies that are accepted into AZ Furnace must be based in Arizona as a stimulant to regional economic development and job creation.

“We are excited about partnering with ASU to commercialize technologies that we believe could form the basis of innovative new Arizona companies”, said Lesley Cephas, director of Research Development and Technology Transfer at NAU. “What we particularly like about the concept of AZ Furnace is that applicants can identify complementary or related technologies and then, for example, choose one of NAU’s technologies and one of ASU’s technologies and submit an application to start a business based on combining the two. To my knowledge, this is the first program that will facilitate the ‘collaborative licensing’ of technologies coming out of Arizona’s various research institutions.”

AZ Furnace is a startup accelerator which is aimed at individuals starting companies based on technologies developed at Arizona research institutions. It was developed by ASU Venture Catalyst, which is the ASU unit that works with high-potential startup companies from both inside and outside the university. The ASU Venture Catalyst and ASU SkySong are both strategic units of ASU’s Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development, the research arm of ASU.

“Furnace is really becoming a state-wide collaboration to drive economic development through the creation of new high-potential startups” said Gordon McConnell, assistant vice president for Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Venture Acceleration at ASU’s Venture Catalyst. “The overwhelmingly positive response from partners like NAU Innovations who want to get involved, and share resources, demonstrates that now is the right time for a cutting edge program like Furnace.”

This unique program will involve a nationwide competition to select and fund new ventures that are based on one or more patents or technologies developed at research institutions in Arizona. In addition to NAU, Dignity Health Systems was the first partner to join AZ Furnace in April. Technologies from NAU and Dignity Health will be listed alongside the technologies available through Arizona Technology Enterprises (AzTE), the Technology Transfer Office of ASU. This will increase the number of cutting edge innovations available for entrepreneurs who are looking to capitalize on research discoveries to create viable businesses. 

“High-value technologies provide no benefit to society if they remain in research laboratories across the country” said Charlie Lewis, vice president of Venture Development for AzTE. “ASU, NAU and Dignity Health are taking a proactive step to ensure that Arizona’s most valuable technologies are given all the assistance they need to realize their full potential here at home. We are excited to be partnering with these outstanding Arizona-based research institutions on the Furnace Accelerator and anticipate some very promising companies being launched as a result.”

The competition is open to anyone in the world, and will officially launch in the third quarter of 2012. The participants invited into Furnace must incubate their new companies in the co-working space available to them at ASU SkySong or NACET.