Department of Defense grant to create new tech transfer center at ASU

January 13, 2014

Arizona State University has been awarded a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Defense to create a new Pracademic Center of Excellence in Technology Transfer to leverage ASU’s proven method and record of success to support technology transfer and commercialization from Department of Defense laboratories.

The center is a collaboration led by ASU’s Entrepreneurship and Innovation Group, in association with Arizona Technology Enterprises (AzTE), ASU’s Security and Defense Systems Initiative and ASU’s W. P. Carey School of Business. Download Full Image

Technology transfer from federal government laboratories, especially for Department of Defense laboratories, has become an increasingly important strategic objective. The new Pracademic Center of Excellence in Technology Transfer (PACE/T2) will play an important role in meeting the department’s strategy, plans, goals and metrics for substantially increasing transfer and commercialization of dual-use technologies developed in defense laboratories to the commercial marketplace.

“This award is a testimony to the innovations in technology transfer and commercialization activities that are a core principle at ASU, and our ability to adapt these methodologies to other locations and institutions,” said Gordon McConnell, assistant vice president for the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Group at ASU and principal investigator on the grant.

ASU has experimented to develop, implement and operate a novel approach to technology transfer and commercialization that has proven to be remarkably effective. It has undertaken an evidence-based “learn-by-doing” approach that is focused on practical aspects of stimulating entrepreneurship to enable technology transfer and successful commercialization. This “pracademic” approach has demonstrated enormous success in achieving entrepreneurially driven transfer and commercialization of technologies.

Transfer and commercialization of technologies created at ASU is managed by AzTE, the technology transfer arm for ASU, in part via the Furnace Technology Transfer Accelerator led by the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Group (EIG).

Over the past 10 years, AzTE has supported the launch and development of 67 ASU spinout companies. Spinouts based on ASU-developed technologies raised $68 million in external funding during the 2013 fiscal year. Altogether, companies licensing ASU discoveries have raised nearly $400 million in total venture funding since AzTE’s creation in 2003.

“The mix of AzTE experience and EIG’s Furnace methodology has proven itself to be a valuable tool for the technology transfer here in ASU,” said Charlie Lewis, vice president for venture development at AzTE. “We expect to deploy this range of tools to help the DOD reach its strategic objectives for technology transfer.”

ASU’s Entrepreneurship and Innovation Group helps innovators, inventors, ideators and entrepreneurs launch their for-profit, nonprofit and more-than-profit ventures. Over the past three years, the unit has grown to encompass not just startup acceleration, but a broad range of entrepreneurship-related activities across the university, the metro area and the state. In the current fiscal year the group will support almost 80 startups.

Examining popular culture and society

January 13, 2014

Let’s face it – everywhere we turn we are surrounded by popular culture. Whether it is on TV in a coffee shop, magazines in a grocery store or music on the radio, we just can’t seem to get away from it.

This realization has caused Project Humanities at Arizona State University to ask: Is pop culture a direct representation of the views of society?   Download Full Image

To answer this, we must first define popular culture. At its most basic level, popular culture is a collection of ideas, values, actions, goods and services that can be bought and sold to the mainstream masses. High-level industry professionals and celebrities generally deem these goods as valuable in magazines and on TV, which increases sales and worth.

Joseph Benesh, director of the Phoenix Center for the Arts, shares his opinion about this process.

“There are hundreds of magazines that sell only pop culture, e.g. the Vogues, GQs, People, teen mags. People are spending money to be brainwashed on where to spend their next dollar and pay more for whatever that is. It's genius,” he said.

Under this psychology, society is, in turn, creating a culture that expresses our deepest yearnings and desires. Matthew Whitaker, director for the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy at ASU, weighed in on the phenomenon.  

“It’s interesting, because in doing this, pop culture often becomes a manifestation of what we want. Sometimes, however, what we want isn’t good for us,” he said.

Characteristics of race, class and gender are often constructed on television shows to help us understand who we are as people. Sexuality has become a topic due to artists like Miley Cyrus and Lady Gaga. It’s unclear, though, whether these artists are expressing their creative freedom or are pawns in the media machine.

“In some ways Miley is a genius because she knew that in order to succeed exponentially and be accepted by adults, she had to kill Hannah Montana. Cyrus had her career in mind, not necessarily her art,” said Whitaker.

“Most people would argue that someone like Kelly Clarkson is a great vocalist, but she won’t give you the drama. Whether you view it as a train wreck or the evolution of an artist, we as a society, for better or worse, gravitate toward spectacle.”

As society moves toward a more progressive and accepting outlook, executives are looking for ways to use music and TV as a means for change. Whitaker applauds "Modern Family" for the way that comedy is used to portray these ideas in a positive light.

“I see this as an educational tool that allows us to be taught through humor," he said. "Humor can be disarming if it is done right. We are in the midst of a massive movement to challenge us to think differently by using pop culture in subtle and non-subtle ways.”

Some would argue that this movement has created information overload.

“In my home we don't have network TV or cable, just an online streaming provider," says Benesh. "So my exposure to the mainstream is pretty much just my online account. To anyone who's reading this: remember you have choices of what to buy, where to buy it and what to watch. Turn off your TV for one year and it will change your life forever.”

Others, like Whitaker, feel that society should not dismiss it categorically.

“It can be a beautiful representation of the human experience," Whitaker says. "There are so many wonderful things in pop culture that can feed the mind, heart and soul – like spoken-word poetry, dance and uplifting religion expression that can engender positive change within us. Ignoring it could cause you to miss out."

What do you think? Join the conversation on the Project Humanities Facebook page.