UConn Celebrates Economic Benefits of Innovation at Inaugural Ceremony

Awards highlight the University's commitment to bringing research where it benefits people.

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Innovation is becoming big business at the University of Connecticut, with patent licenses and similar research development options producing more than $4 million since 2008 and a steadily increasing flow of new projects and ideas. On Wednesday, the University will host an inaugural celebration of this crucial aspect of its mission, with awards for recipients ranging from Gov. Dannel P. Malloy to undergraduates already dipping their toes in the waters of entrepreneurship.

“It is really exciting to see the critical research and discoveries of our faculty members, along with a growing number of our students moving into the marketplace,” says Mary Holz-Clause, vice president for economic development.

The ceremony, which will take place May 16 at the Connecticut Science Center in Hartford, will recognize not only research, which has always been a vital part of the University’s mission, but research that has shown the way toward making economic development from campus discoveries a growing part of the UConn experience.

University figures show that income from licenses and other options has topped $1 million dollars for six of the last eight years, with the number of revenue-generating licenses created from university research growing from 12 in 1998 to 53 in 2011.

The income is coming from patents and other innovations developed by researchers at UConn, in fields ranging from medical science to electrical engineering. The range of innovation will be on display Wednesday night. Awards will go to giants like The Jackson Laboratory, the renowned genetic research center that this year signed a deal to bring a billion-dollar facility to the UConn Health Center campus in Farmington, and to startups like IMCORP, a Manchester, Conn.-based company started in 1995 by UConn professor emeritus Matthew Mashikian from an idea he developed while at the University.

“We all do research, but at the end of the day, the research must in some way improve the quality of life for people,” said Suman Singha, vice president for research at UConn, who will be among those honored at the event. “When you take research, and you bring it to where it benefits people, that’s what we’re all about.”

Innovation has also become a keystone of UConn’s contribution to Connecticut’s overall economic picture. University President Susan Herbst has made growth and development one of her central goals, and highlighted UConn’s early successes and plans for continued advancement when addressing the governor’s special summit on jobs last fall.

“Not only does research provide immediate results, but new discoveries, treatments, and products provide long-term benefits,” Herbst said, citing the range of planned activities at the Jackson Labs facility in Farmington, where researchers will tackle new approaches to treating cancer, Alzheimer’s, and many other diseases.

Malloy himself plans to be on hand at the ceremony, where he’s due to receive an award as an Innovation Champion along with Senate President Pro Tempore Don Williams. Malloy has made research and development a central component of his plan to grow Connecticut’s economy, with the Bioscience Connecticut initiative, of which the Jackson Labs deal is the major piece, the flagship accomplishment of his agenda so far.

Williams is being honored for working to win approval in the General Assembly for a $170 million investment in UConn’s technology park and its first building, a 125,000-square foot facility with laboratory space and specialized equipment. The technology park is slated to open in 2015.

The awards will show off what innovation means to UConn, Holz-Clause says, but will also keep the bigger picture in sight.

“Businesses, industries, customers and, in terms of health innovations, patients will benefit from the ongoing innovation at the University,” she said. “The innovations that come from economic development efforts at UConn address very specific national priorities for health, energy, and security.”