For our 10th anniversary, we interviewed Betsy Cantwell, senior vice president for research and innovation at the University of Arizona. In this video, she talks about her arrival at the university and the excellence that she saw in Tech Launch Arizona, in its people, processes, and performance record. She also talks about her vision for the ecosystem and how TLA will continue to impact Tucson, Phoenix, and the region in the coming years.
"The beginning of the chain is intimately what TLA does in partnership with the university. It's the ideation at the university and the perfection of that ideation into something that's business community can use... You have permission to think more broadly about what your potential impact can be than perhaps you thought. And if you've already thought about it, you have permission to take action reach out to TLA.” – Betsy Cantwell
What I got when I got to the University of Arizona in TLA is a unit that had consistently done better year on year, that had consistently understood and really utilized its position as an economic driver for the region.
Everybody is willing to go beyond checking the boxes and really say, ‘what is the purpose of a tech transfer organization at a university like ours? Our purpose, you know in my title, is innovation. Our purpose is to be a part of the innovation ecosystem in southern Arizona and everybody at TLA embraces that entire purpose, not just the component that says we're going to do invention disclosures and patents and maybe a little of this and a little of that. You know TLA focuses on startups. TLA focuses on revenues. And every year has been able to – even in the times I've been here in what are clearly some economically challenging times – been able to do better.
My expectation full expectation is that TLA will become part of the university's growth scenario in Phoenix. Helping faculty understand the compelling nature of the fact that that's an additional way to have impact beyond your publications or beyond the graduate students, the workforce you develop, in an entirely new way, and TLA does awful lot of the work to help get that there.
So one of the ways I like to look at an entity like TLA in an innovation ecosystem is (to look at) what impact does it have on the economy. We know because we did a recent report that it's had almost $2 billion worth of impact over the last five years. In an innovation ecosystem the slow way to get investors is to sit and wait for them to discover you. An entity like TLA brings investors to our innovation ecosystem and this includes the whole of southern Arizona, to our patient portfolio and our licensing stream and our impact stream from our faculty. And that expands and speeds up the rate at which these innovations become impactful.
The numbers actually speak to the kind of, I'll call it ‘the end of the ecosystem chain.’ But the beginning of the chain is intimately what TLA does in partnership with the university. It's the ideation at the university and the perfection of that ideation into something that's business community can use. And then the next component of that is all of the aspects of how patents are used, and all of the deals that go with that, and then all of the aspects of how that creates new jobs, new jobs create people and revenue that come back to the university in three forms: one is new students, new faculty, and new revenue streams that come back through TLA, and I view it as a virtuous cycle. But without a TLA none of that happens as far as the university’s value in the ecosystem is concerned. The university's value in the ecosystem is intimately tied to our ability to deliver impact through TLA.
You have permission to think more broadly about what your potential impact can be than perhaps you thought. And if you've already thought about it you have permission to take action reach out to TLA.