February 8, 2012

UW launches technology startup incubator, aims to double startups in three years

News and Information

The University of Washington today unveiled a new business incubator that will provide startup businesses access to critical lab and office space on the UW campus for their work.

The incubator is one key element in a larger commercialization initiative announced by President Michael Young today that will double the number of startups produced by the UW – from an average of 10 a year to 20 – during the next three years.

Renuka Prahabakar talks about her firm Envitrum – one of the first startups that will take advantage of the business incubator space – with the Center for Commercializations Merina Bigley and Xconmy reporter Curt Woodward.

Mary Levin/U of Washington

Renuka Prahabakar talks about her firm Envitrum – one of the first startups that will take advantage of the business incubator space – with the Center for Commercializations Merina Bigley and Xconmy reporter Curt Woodward.

The UW Center for Commercialization New Ventures Facility, which opened today, showcases the UWs commitment to spinning out an increasing number of companies built around UW research. The incubator will be led by the UW Center for Commercialization New Ventures program and is located in UWs Fluke Hall.

The space will initially host 15 companies and when finished will have space for 25 startups, providing 11,500 square feet of lab space and 11,500 square feet of office space.

Among the first UW startup companies occupying the space will be:

  • Nexgenia – A company using polymer-based nanotechnology that improves the speed and sensitivity of clinical laboratory tests for the diagnosis of infectious diseases, cancer and metabolic disorders.
  • Envitrum – A startup with a process that converts low-value waste glass into versatile green building materials.
  • VIxim A company developing scalable simulation software for cloud environments including SimX for computation-based encryption and WaveSearch for accelerated graph diffusion.

“The opening of this new incubator signals our commitment to strengthening entrepreneurship at the UW,” Young said. “Weve been providing the mentorship and are now going the next step in providing the space for faculty and students to work alongside highly successful and experienced Washington entrepreneurs on UW spin-outs.”

An invited guest talks with the Center for Commercializations Maren Ohaks, associate director of New Ventures, and Linden Rhoads, UW vice provost for commercialization.

Mary Levin/U of Washington

An invited guest talks with the Center for Commercializations Maren Ohaks, associate director of New Ventures, and Linden Rhoads, UW vice provost for commercialization.

The UW has fostered university-based innovations to help create more than 260 companies in Washington state. Young hopes to strengthen that position in the future with a renewed focus on fostering the entrepreneurial spirit.

“We all want to see National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health research result in tremendous new therapies and treatments,” said Young. “The reality is that commercialization is a major undertaking that requires space, capital, expertise and passion. We want UW to be the best place in the world to do research. We want researchers doing the important work in key translational areas to choose to come to UW and stay here.”

The UW is dedicated to maximizing its contribution to the Washington state economy by spinning out innovations in life sciences, clean technology, alternative energy and information technology. The UW incubator will help increase the quantity and quality of Washington technology companies by priming some of the most promising UW early-stage startups for outside investment and success.

“An on-campus facility is just critical,” said Linden Rhoads, UW vice provost for commercialization. “Housed here, a startups product development team has a much better chance of interacting with the UW faculty and graduate students who originally conceived the core technology or concept. In addition, a major goal is lowering the overall cost of product development by leveraging university expertise and infrastructure.”

UW technology startups are a major driver for the states economy. These startups have the potential for high growth. They create jobs and offer careers to Washington citizens.  Moreover, they pay state taxes, attract outside investment, increase exports and spawn even more entrepreneurial activity both inside and outside the university.

UW President Michael Young at the grand opening of the business incubator launched by the UWs Center for Commercialization, or C4C.

Mary Levin/U of Washington

UW President Michael Young at the grand opening of the business incubator launched by the UWs Center for Commercialization, or C4C.

Companies that will occupy the New Ventures Facility are spin-outs that the Center for Commercialization deems as having significant commercial promise. Often, they are the incorporation of projects that have worked closely with the center for several years, following a program-based process that culminates in producing spin-outs.

“You cant overestimate the value of the synergy that comes from working alongside other entrepreneurial teams, even just operationally,” said Thomas Schulte, president of UW startup Nexgenia. “A company may be developing an entirely different kind of product, but it still has to figure out how to market the product, who to retain for intellectual property counsel, how to attract outside funding. Having Internet access, standard office equipment and meeting space all included, saves us money and a lot of distractions from advancing our new venture.”

The new incubator joins the ranks of technology startup incubators at peer research institutions including those at the MIT, University of Michigan, University of Wisconsin, Georgia Tech, UC San Diego and University of Utah.

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For more information:
Reach Rhoads via Debbie Woo, communications, 206-616-9540, woodeb@uw.edu
Woo also has contact information for spokesmen of startups VIxim, Nexgenia and Envitrum, which are among the first to join the incubator

Patrick Shelby, director of UWs New Ventures, introduces Vikram Jandhyala chair of UW electrical engineering department and co-founder of VIxim, one of the first startups negotiating for space in the New Ventures Facility.

Mary Levin/U of Washington

Patrick Shelby, director of UWs New Ventures, introduces Vikram Jandhyala chair of UW electrical engineering department and co-founder of VIxim, one of the first startups negotiating for space in the New Ventures Facility.