Office of Research UC Davis ramps up new commercial venture formation with 14 technology startups in past year - Office of Research

UC Davis ramps up new commercial venture formation with 14 technology startups in past year

Tom Shapland, CEO of Tule.

Tom Shapland, CEO of Tule, developed the technology while pursuing his Ph.D. in the College of Agriculture and Environmental Science.

By Andy Fell

August 13, 2014

The University of California, Davis, launched 14 commercial startups during the past year to June 30 — the largest number of new ventures based on UC Davis technology to be started in a single year. This represents an increase from eight startups the preceding fiscal year.

“Nearly doubling the number of university-based startups is a major milestone achieved by the Office of Research, working closely with entrepreneurial faculty,” said Harris Lewin, vice chancellor for research. “This achievement illustrates the huge potential of our faculty for driving economic development, and is in perfect alignment with Chancellor Linda Katehi’s goals for the campus, and the recent emphasis on technology transfer by our new University of California president, Janet Napolitano.”

Of the 21 companies launched over the last two years, most are based in Northern California, with several located in Davis and surrounding areas. Examples include Tule Technologies, 5Plus, Reprovantage, and ViVita. Many are developing solutions that address issues of growing importance such as agricultural water efficiency and human health.

Tule Technologies, for example, is developing a sensor-based monitoring system based on UC Davis technology that allows growers to use water more efficiently when irrigating their fields. Reprovantage, a biotechnology company founded by three UC Davis researchers, is focused on developing diagnostic and treatment applications for a recently identified cause of male infertility discovered at UC Davis.

According to David Earp, chairman of the board of Reprovantage and a successful biotechnology entrepreneur, “It’s terrific to have such a supportive interaction with the UC Davis technology management team. We’re all working toward the goal of seeing UC Davis technology get funded and developed, and the collaborative leadership we’ve experienced in working with UC Davis is key to making that happen.”

The increase in university startups has been cultivated by a unique and collaborative network, enabled by Venture Catalyst, a new unit within the Technology Management and Corporate Relations division of the Office of Research, led by Associate Vice Chancellor for Research Dushyant Pathak. Venture Catalyst works closely with campus and local community resources, including the university’s Child Family Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and the Engineering Translational Technology Center, to support the translation of university research into commercial applications.

“Unlocking our researchers’ innovative potential has been enhanced by our commitment to working collaboratively across the university and with external entrepreneurial drivers,” said Pathak. “Venture Catalyst represents a unique focus on enabling our researchers to see their technologies make societal and economic impact.” The unit is launching a number of novel programs designed to support the innovative and entrepreneurial drive of UC Davis faculty and inventors.

In total, 62 startups based on inventions originating at UC Davis have been formed since 2003, with recent startups resulting in the creation of hundreds of high-value technology jobs in our region. Recent successful UC Davis startups include Folsom-based SynapSense Corporation, which was founded in 2006 and recently acquired by Panduit. SynapSense develops wireless energy-efficient solutions that improve capacity and reduce energy costs for data centers, which typically consume the majority of energy used in commercial buildings. The company has won several awards for their innovative and green products, including the U.S. Department of Energy’s Innovator award in 2008.

The Technology Management and Corporate Relations division of the UC Davis Office of Research includes Venture Catalyst, the Office of Corporate Relations and InnovationAccess, and is responsible for enabling the infrastructure and relationships necessary to effectively convert research into commercial applications that benefit society. The Office of Research is the primary administrative unit within UC Davis responsible for providing services and resources to all of the university’s faculty, students and staff to support and advance their research. Led by Vice Chancellor for Research Harris Lewin, the Office of Research is a catalyst for advancing the research mission at UC Davis.

About UC Davis

UC Davis is a global community of individuals united to better humanity and our natural world while seeking solutions to some of our most pressing challenges. Located near the California state capital, UC Davis has more than 34,000 students, and the full-time equivalent of 4,100 faculty and other academics and 17,400 staff. The campus has an annual research budget of over $750 million, a comprehensive health system and about two dozen specialized research centers. The university offers interdisciplinary graduate study and 99 undergraduate majors in four colleges and six professional schools.

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