Technology Transfer Operations

Arizona’s Public Universities’ Technology Transfer Operations

Skysong Innovations at Arizona State University

Skysong Innovations LLC was formed in 2003 as ASU’s exclusive intellectual property management and technology transfer organization. The office exemplifies ASU’s broader culture of institutional innovation, which seeks to reimagine traditional structures to radically improve the delivery and impact of higher education.

Skysong Innovations’ vision

As an aspect of ASU’s vision of the New American University, technology transfer is a critical mechanism for achieving societal impact via the commercial dissemination of knowledge created by university faculty and researchers. This focus leads to an office-wide commitment to broad marketing of technologies and deal-based decision making. When negotiating with potential licensees, Skysong Innovations pursues fair, but not necessarily maximum, value to facilitate more rapid deal flow. Skysong Innovations also pursues all potential commercialization pathways, not just start-ups, understanding that licensing to an established entity can sometimes expedite bringing a technology to market or enable its use in a broader range of applications. After technologies leave the university, Skysong Innovations offers licensees a wide range of venture development support, including connections to funding, management and mentorship.

Skysong Innovations contribution to ASU mission

ASU is committed to economic impact in Arizona, and Skysong Innovations is an important component of that effort. Skysong Innovations has helped launch more than 100 start-up companies, which collectively have raised more than $650 million in total investment funding.

The William Seidman Research Institute recently examined the activities of Skysong Innovations and 21 Arizona-based ASU-linked companies, all founded in the last decade, to determine their overall contribution to the state’s economy in fiscal year 2016. The report found these entities were responsible for the following economic impacts in just one year:

  • More than 1,100 jobs
  • $114 million contributed to gross state product
  • $77 million in wages
  • $10 million in state and local tax revenue

Skysong Innovations also contributes to the university’s effective internal operation. A high-functioning tech transfer office boosts faculty recruitment and retention, helps attract industry-sponsored research funding, supports other entrepreneurial initiatives within the university and enhances the overall brand of the university.

Expected Skysong Innovations outcomes

ASU, through the activities of Skysong Innovations, is annually one of the top-performing U.S. universities in terms of intellectual property inputs (inventions disclosed by ASU researchers) and outputs (licensing deals and start-up companies) relative to the size of the university's research enterprise.

Skysong Innovations’ approach to patenting – with greater selectivity based on deal potential and the ability to make at-risk investments for key initiatives as well as long-term technology development – has contributed to ASU’s recognition as a top university for tech transfer by the Milken Institute in its April 2017 study of “The Best Universities for Technology Transfer.” ASU is now ranked 21st, an impressive improvement from 43rd in 2006 ahead of Northwestern, Harvard, Johns Hopkins and Duke. In addition, the National Academy of Inventors and the Intellectual Property Owners Association have ranked ASU 30th for U.S. utility patents granted to universities worldwide, outpacing Yale, Carnegie Mellon, Georgetown and Dartmouth. ASU, through Skysong Innovations, expects to continue this operational excellence in future years.

NAU Innovations’ vision

NAU Innovations is Northern Arizona University’s technology transfer program. NAU Innovations catalyzes discovery and transfers knowledge created by university researchers to the private sector for the benefit of society. NAU Innovations provides resources and technical assistance to NAU researchers from the earliest stages of intellectual property development through commercialization, helping to generate and disseminate cutting-edge research outcomes that are competitive in the 21st century marketplace. 

NAU Innovations builds strong relationships with the campus research community. These relationships, which often begin at the recruiting stage, are fundamental to the service function of NAU’s technology transfer program. NAU Innovations educates faculty, staff and students on technology transfer as an effective mechanism for disseminating the results of research as well as its personal and professional benefits. Research that could generate discoveries with commercial potential are identified and supported financially and promoted through NAU Innovations marketing. In addition, NAU Innovations establishes strategic, collaborative connections with potential commercialization partners to sponsor research and to advance intellectual property through proof of concept, prototype and market-ready stages. 

NAU Innovations contribution to Northern Arizona University mission

NAU President Rita Cheng has envisioned a bold, nationally competitive and dynamic research enterprise. Strategic approaches to accomplish this vision include the recruitment of “high-research” faculty as well as investment in the organizational and physical infrastructure needed to advance the research mission. While Northern Arizona University currently holds a “higher research” Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education, President Cheng is taking NAU further with a plan to break into the top 200 research institutions as ranked annually by the National Science Foundation.   

NAU Innovations contributes to President Cheng’s vision in many ways. NAU Innovations is a key conduit through which research activity is disseminated. The NAU brand is enhanced when NAU-generated inventions reach the commercial marketplace. NAU Innovations encourages researchers to discover and develop innovations that will have commercial, research and educational value. The office plays a small but important role in the recruiting of high research faculty, who are now NAU’s most prolific inventors.  NAU Innovations also provides opportunities for students to participate in commercialization activities and learn about entrepreneurship.

Expected NAU innovations outcomes

Northern Arizona University is quickly moving up in its peer group in technology transfer performance.  In FY2015, the most recent year for which peer data is available, NAU exceeded for the first time the median for its peer group in invention disclosures and invention disclosures per $10 million in total research expenditures.  In FY2016, NAU exceeded its Arizona Board of Regents strategic enterprise goals in invention disclosures by 87 percent and in patents issued by 100 percent. 

Northern Arizona University has not only increased the number of invention disclosures and patents issued, but also increased the number of faculty and students engaged in technology transfer as well as the number of first-time inventors. Collaborative research activity involving other research institutions is generating more technology transfer outcomes. NAU has significantly increased the number of patent applications filed, and licensing activity has also substantially increased. Sponsored research generated through technology transfer activities now exceeds $1 million annually at NAU.

Tech Launch Arizona at the University of Arizona

Tech Launch Arizona at the University of Arizona creates social and economic impact through developing and protecting inventions stemming from UA research as well as transitioning the inventions from the lab to the world through commercial pathways.

Tech Launch Arizona’s vision

By 2020, the University of Arizona through Tech Launch Arizona will become a recognized national resource for its role in commercializing UA created knowledge and bringing the university’s inventions to the public for economic and social benefit.

Tech Launch Arizona mission

These primary areas of focus define the Tech Launch Arizona mission:

  • Improving quality of life: The inventions Tech Launch Arizona moved into the commercial stream enhance quality of life by meeting unmet societal needs.
  • Generating economic impact: Tech Launch Arizona works to infuse innovation into the economy, creating enterprises and enhancing productivity and efficiency.
  • Growing the ecosystem: This entails effectively creating a vibrant culture around invention and the commercialization of research within the UA, and connecting talented UA faculty and researchers with experienced entrepreneurs, investors and services such as the Arizona Center for Innovation incubator.
  • Making Connections: Tech Launch Arizona provides experts with programs and the facilities of Tech Parks Arizona to connect technology companies with UA research expertise.

Tech Launch Arizona’s contribution to the University of Arizona mission

Commercialization is a natural continuation of the research process, and success has reputational benefit and economic consequence for the UA. TLA’s activities support the UA mission by:

  • Attracting and retaining high-quality students, staff and faculty.
  • Contributions to our modern economy through and commercialization of UA inventions.
  • Supporting 100 percent student engagement through employment, internships and project opportunities.
  • Engaging with companies for sponsored research.

Expected Tech Launch Arizona outcomes

Tech Launch Arizona strives to:

  • Focus on service, always looking to provide useful, targeted help for our customers.
  • Deliver solutions and resources matched to needs.
  • Leverage resources both within the UA and across the ecosystem to maximize efficiency, connectivity, networks and relationships.
  • Maintain fairness in negotiations, always with the goal of bringing UA inventions to the marketplace.
  • Communicate with clarity, transparency and timeliness.

Expected Tech Launch Arizona outcomes

Tech Launch Arizona strives to:

  • Focus on service, always looking to provide useful, targeted help for our customers.
  • Deliver solutions and resources matched to needs.
  • Leverage resources both within the UA and across the ecosystem to maximize efficiency, connectivity, networks and relationships.
  • Maintain fairness in the negotiations, always with the goal of bringing UA inventions to the marketplace.
  • Communicate with clarity, transparency and timeliness.