Tech Launch Arizona Recognizes UArizona Inventors With Virtual Awards, Expo
Along with honoring the awardees, the commemorative website for TLA's annual I-Squared Expo & Awards profiles nine innovative university research teams and the inventions and startups they are working to bring to the world.
While there were no champagne toasts, hand shaking or fist bumping, Tech Launch Arizona this week honored contributors to the University of Arizona and Tucson innovation ecosystem.
Just as in the previous six years, the UArizona office dedicated to commercializing the university's inventions held its annual I-Squared Expo & Awards event in recognition of its honorees. But this time, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the event was held via a dedicated website as opposed to in person.
Even though the community is unable to gather this year due to the pandemic, UArizona President Robert C. Robbins noted the importance of continuing to celebrate and recognize successes in commercialization.
"Commercialization is the mechanism whereby we generate impact from university research," he said in his welcome video on the site. "The I-Squared Awards are an important way to honor those contributions and to express gratitude to those groups and individuals for their dedication and hard work. The world needs great innovation now more than ever, and I am proud of everyone here who is actively working to create a bright future for us all."
Elizabeth R. Cantwell, the university's senior vice president for research and innovation, also noted the importance of honoring those involved with commercialization as "a huge component of the impact of the research being done at the University of Arizona."
"Every day, our researchers not only do incredible research and teach incredible amounts of knowledge," she said, "but we deliver that into the world when we create new inventions, we create new companies, and we create economic value."
In his own welcome, Doug Hockstad, assistant vice president of Tech Launch Arizona, noted that the pandemic has not slowed down the work of bringing the university's innovations to the world.
"The university's innovation engine is running stronger than ever," he said, "and our community is highly engaged in supporting the translation of that creativity out into the world for the public good. It's essential to continue to recognize and honor this work that's making all of our lives better."
This year's honorees, who each offer video comments on the website, include:
- Inventor of the Year: James Schwiegerling, professor in the James C. Wyant College of Optical Sciences, who created a new trifocal intraocular lens that the university licensed to Alcon and is now helping over 500,000 patients see better.
- Startup of the Year: Neuro-ID, co-founded by Joseph Valacich, professor of management information systems in the Eller College of Management, and former doctoral student Jeff Jenkins, which provides solutions to help its client companies optimize digital interactions with their customers.
- Campus Collaboration Award: Carol Stewart, associate vice president of Tech Parks Arizona, who, after less than two years in the position, has had an immense impact on the ecosystem and commercialization.
- Student Inventor of the Year: Vinodh Subramanian, a graduate student in systems and industrial engineering in the College of Engineering, who developed a system and launched a startup to help reduce patient no-shows in the health care industry.
- David N. Allen Award for Leadership and Vision: Fletcher McCusker, chief executive officer of UAVenture Capital, who worked with TLA to launch UArizona startup SinfoníaRx in 2013 and successfully exited in 2017, continues to be involved with organizations at UArizona and across the ecosystem to promote innovation and entrepreneurship.
TLA also gives an Ecosystem Impact Award to an individual who has contributed to the successful commercialization of university inventions. This year, the award went to a whole group: TLA's Commercialization Partners, a cohort of more than 30 experienced technology experts and entrepreneurs who come together on a regular basis to provide advice, direction and helpful network connections to UArizona inventors and startups.
Along with videos and profiles of each honoree, the I-Squared website also carries on the TLA tradition of a startup and technology expo, with brief profiles from nine teams working on innovations ranging from battery-free wearables to sensors for stroke diagnosis to autonomous vehicle enabling radar. The teams are in the process of developing and commercializing innovations developed at the university.
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