For our 10th anniversary, we interviewed Eric Smith at the UA Center for Innovation. Early on, Eric worked for TLA and helped build our commercialization network, with the goal of getting outside support and advice on commercializing UA inventions. Today, he runs the university's incubator network, which is a natural next stop for many startups launched through TLA.
“When I saw the economic impact report put up by Tech Launch Arizona, to be honest, my first reaction was, ‘that's no surprise.’ I mean, this is incredible work, and Tech Launch Arizona represents the vehicle, the way for technologies to get from our university to the world... That impact number is a representation of a lot of partnership, a lot of collaboration, a lot of hard work, a lot of resources in the university, and Tech Launch is there as a guide so it can be successful in the marketplace." –Eric Smith
“First of all I would say that I never exited TLA. If there's one thing you learn about being a part of this organization, it's that you're now part of the family. And so even coming back to visit. I still feel a part of this family.
“So I spent a few years with Tech Launch Arizona as the commercialization network manager and the NSF I core program manager. All of my work was focused on helping to bring resources to startups. So with the large range of incredible inventions that come to Tech Launch Arizona, the staff, the licensing managers, the mentors, they have incredible advice to give guidance and to provide. However sometimes external advice and deep domain expertise is required to help Tech Launch Arizona to commercialize that technology. So we built this network, and the whole goal of this was really to get outside support and advice in on technologies making their way through Tech Launch Arizona. And that came out in ways such as advice on early stage technologies, and help making decisions on asset development projects, or money to put into help validate the technology, all the way to utilizing this network to help provide advisors for startups, for team members, specifically business leadership for the startup companies as well.
“If a company is launching out of Tech Launch Arizona, there's a new startup coming, we know that they've got some great intellectual property that's based on an incredible invention by a researcher at the University of Arizona. They've had support from Tech Launch Arizona on the intellectual property side, on the venture side, maybe there's been some funding to help to validate the technology… these types of things go a really long way when a company comes to an incubator like ours. And we've seen Tech Launch Arizona really increase in the last few years the ability that they have to support startup companies, to launch really great companies, and to bring them to the incubator.
“When I saw the economic impact report put up by Tech Launch Arizona, to be honest, my first reaction was, ‘that's no surprise.’ I mean, this is incredible work, and Tech Launch Arizona represents the vehicle, the way for technologies to get from our university to the world. And so it starts with those great inventions. Even earlier than that, it starts with the research funding that comes to the university, right? And making research into new discovery, into invention, into commercialization, into impact. Tech Launch Arizona facilitates all of that. So that impact number is a representation of a lot of partnership, a lot of collaboration, a lot of hard work, a lot of resources in the university, and Tech Launch is there as a guide so it can be successful in the marketplace.
“Tech Launch Arizona has helped the university community realize the benefit of technology commercialization, not just to the world or to the marketplace, but back to the university… to the labs, to the students, and to the faculty and researchers, and then to the community. We know about this now. We know about this resource inside of our university. The inventions coming out of it, the impact that those inventions can make in the marketplace, the interest among the community. At tech launch Arizona to serve startup companies and the way that TLA serves startup companies pre-licensed early-stage is actually fairly unique. This isn't just always done in other universities, or not done in other universities. It's done here and it's done really well here. As they're looking to obtain funding, as they're looking to obtain technology validation, as they're looking to obtain employees and other resources, Tech Launch is here to give them a good head start on how to strategize on those things and begin to take action.”