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Partners invest in Ariz. business accelerator program


August 27, 2012

The Arizona Commerce Authority (ACA) and BioAccel announce their collaboration with AZ Furnace, Arizona's first-of-its-kind statewide business accelerator program that encourages entrepreneurs from across the country to find and commercialize innovations developed within the state's universities and research institutions. Partners already include Arizona State University, Northern Arizona University and the Dignity Health Group

The ACA will commit up to $400,000 in seed funding, with BioAccel matching up to $150,000. This financial commitment is an investment in Arizona's overall economy by fostering promising, innovative business creation – a key initiative of both the ACA and BioAccel. 

The Arizona Furnace competition, and online application process, will officially open on Tuesday, Aug. 28. Interested parties can visit www.azfurnace.org to see what technologies are available and to apply to AZ Furnace.

“AZ Furnace is a game changer in tech transfer and acknowledges that intellectual property generated by our state's research institutions represents enormous economic value – AZ Furnace unlocks incredible potential,” said Sandra Watson, interim president and CEO for the Arizona Commerce Authority. “The ACA is thrilled to join this collaboration to further foster business creation. Funding this initiative and providing technical assistance to launch and scale startups demonstrates our commitment to strengthen Arizona's entrepreneurial community."

The AZ Furnace program is a competitive process that encourages serial entrepreneurs, alumni, researchers, faculty and postdocs to look at Arizona technologies in a new way. The university and research intellectual property (IP) has been amassed in a user-friendly database to promote competition among entrepreneurs interested in commercializing those technologies. Each successful team will also receive incubator/accelerator services from AZ Furnace partners.


ASU Venture Catalyst, responsible for the AZ Furnace concept, and NAU work with high-potential start-up companies from both inside and outside the university system to advance technology commercialization.

“The identification of, and access to, qualified technologies and a robust pipeline is essential to successful commercialization, new company formation and Arizona's ability to attract venture capital,” said MaryAnn Guerra, CEO of BioAccel. “BioAccel believes that AZ Furnace can play a critical role in improving our pipeline,  which is why we are excited to provide the funding that will be used to support device based technologies that will reside at BioInspire, our new medical device incubator located in the City of Peoria,” she added.

AZ Furnace is designed to propel Arizona to a leadership position in the country by raising the visibility of Arizona’s research institutions and technology transfer offices and driving startup activity that is directly based on intellectual property and new technology disclosures.

“Furnace is an exemplar initiative that translates discoveries made in our university research labs and research institutes to significantly impact society,” said Sethuraman “Panch” Panchanathan, senior vice president for Knowledge Enterprise Development at ASU. “Furnace identifies the key discoveries that have the potential for commercialization and accelerates these discoveries to impact our local and national economies. Furnace aligns directly with ASU’s New American University aspirations to leverage our place, conduct use-inspired research, advance entrepreneurship, and transform society."

Furnace will offer high-potential startup ventures a package worth more than $50,000 in cash and services. The package includes at least $25,000 in seed funding, incubation space in one of the program's technology-providing institutions (ASU, NAU, Dignity Health, BioAccel), an intensive, mentor-led program for six months, and additional support services.  Companies accepted into AZ Furnace must be based in Arizona as a stimulant to regional economic development and job creation. 

“Arizona has numerous premier research institutions creating high value technologies that are not being commercialized” said Charlie Lewis, vice president of Venture Development for Arizona Technology Enterprises, the technology commercialization arm of ASU. “AZ Furnace was created to provide a mechanism to take these technologies out of laboratories and turn them into businesses that create societal benefit. Furnace is the opportunity Arizona has needed to transform use-inspired research into a driver of economic growth and job creation for our state.”

“Furnace has become a true 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, an integral unit of the University’s Office of Knowledge Enterprise. “The overwhelmingly positive response from partners like NAU Innovations and Dignity Health, as well as the financial backing from the ACA and BioAccel, demonstrates that now is the right time for a cutting-edge program like Furnace."

For more information, visit azfurnace.org or email info@azfurnace.org.