July 2, 2012

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Perhaps no Utah governor in modern memory comes to the office with a broad...Read More

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Article

A ‘Can-do’ Spirit

The Beehive State Hums with Innovation and Entrepreneurial Activity

Heather Stewart

July 2, 2012

More than 50 percent of BoomStartup alumni end up garnering additional angel funding after completing the program.

The State of Utah also supports small businesses and startups with several Business Resource Centers located across the state. BRCs serve as “one-stop shops” for business owners looking for access to funding, training and networking, among other things.

In the Pipeline
Utah’s leaders are aggressive about promoting innovation and helping to launch ground-breaking ventures. The Utah Science Technology and Research initiative (USTAR) was developed to spur research at the local universities and turn that research into commercial ventures.

Through targeted funding, USTAR helps recruit top-level researchers to state universities, build state-of-the-art research and development facilities, and form commercialization teams.

Launched in 2006, USTAR has achieved notable results. So far, it has recruited more than 40 researchers away from top-tier institutions like Harvard and MIT. And these researchers have snagged more than $90 million in federal and other grant funding.

The commercialization pipeline is starting to flow, with 121 invention disclosures and 46 provisional patents filed as a result of USTAR research. Teams have created four companies with more than 20 other projects under development.

Other state efforts to spur innovation and economic development include the state’s Technology Commercialization and Innovation Program (TCIP) that is specifically geared to address the critical transition from the lab to the marketplace. The program provides grant funding to researchers or technology licensees who are working to build viable businesses around cutting-edge university research.

Grant applicants must “take that original research and prove they can apply it in a commercial application,” explains David Bradford, Director, IT/Software Cluster and Innovation for the Governor’s Office of Economic Development. The program reviews and approves grant applications three times a year and can award funds up to $80,000 total in two tranches. Overall, the program awards about 40 grants each year.

For Bradford, a significant aspect of TCIP is the way it helps position the startups to catch the eye of investors. “We love the idea that we’re a preparatory fund—other angel investors or seed funds can pick up where we leave off and continue to fund these great spinoffs.”

Sera Prognostics, for example, started as a collaboration between researchers at the University of Utah and Brigham Young University. The fledgling company received a TCIP grant to further the commercialization of its predictive blood test for preterm labor and other pregnancy complications. The company went on to raise $19 million in Series A venture funding and is still thriving and growing in Utah’s tremendous entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Resources:
BoomStartUp
www.boomstartup.com

www.CampusBookRentals.com

BYU Rollins Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology
http://marriottschool.byu.edu/cet/

U of U – The Foundry
www.business.utah.edu/foundry

USTAR
www.innovationutah.com

TCIP
http://goed.utah.gov/programs/coe/

 

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