Wednesday, November 25, 2015         

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UH launching center focused on homegrown entrepreneurial projects

By Nanea Kalani


The University of Hawaii is launching a so-called proof of concept center to invest money in homegrown research projects that have strong commercialization potential.

The university said its new center, dubbed XLR8UH (or accelerate UH), "will harvest promising UH research, develop talented UH entrepreneurs and connect them to a diverse network of investors and businesses."

UH researchers and faculty systemwide handle about $400 million worth of sponsored research annually, said Vassilis Syrmos, UH's vice president for research and innovation. But, he said, "a very small percentage of research has been commercialized in the past."

Syrmos said that while UH is world-renowned for its research in oceanography, astronomy, agriculture, medicine, cancer and genetics, many scientists don't have access to the needed funding and supports.

"Success without the proper ecosystem that a (proof of concept center) provides often results in the proverbial 'valley of death'," he said in a statement.

UH has set aside $1 million this year for investments and expects to select applicants twice a year.

Early-stage companies accepted to the program are eligible for up to $25,000 in seed capital, while more advanced ideas can receive up to $50,000.

UH faculty, staff and students can apply for the program, which requires participants to complete an entrepreneurial/commercialization education program.

Eight teams of researchers have been selected for the inaugural cohorts of the program, including teams from Hawaii island and Maui. They were expected to be announced at a private reception Thursday evening.

"It's not only about the money. It's a good education. At the end of the day, it will be great for them to be exposed to this level of entrepreneurship and innovation," Syrmos said.

UH President David Lassner said the XLR8UH center aligns with the university's commitment to the Hawaii Innovation Initiative, a public-private effort to build a $1 billion research sector in the state.

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