UT System Awards Funds to Spur Commercialization of Inventions

AUSTIN – A tiny, innovative chip that could be implanted painlessly in humans and diagnose acid reflux before later dissolving might prove to be one of the most dramatic commercial products invented at a UT System institution in the coming years.

Or it could be that an advanced process for extracting lipids from algae to create less expensive bio-fuels gets the nod as the most eye-popping invention to originate at a UT System campus.

The two technologies were among 14 developed at UT System institutions that were awarded Texas Ignition Fund (TIF) grants announced today (April 9) totaling $465,000 to help get the advancements out of the laboratory and into commercial use.

The acid reflux chip and algae extraction technologies, as well as those associated with a dozen other winning entries, are described in detail online HERE.

The grants come from a $2 million fund approved by the UT System Board of Regents in December 2007 to speed commercialization of products created at UT System institutions.

“We are pleased with the quality of these first proposals for Ignition Fund grants and delighted that the availability of the grants has spurred so much interest on UT campuses,” UT System Chancellor Mark G. Yudof said.  “It is our hope that the grants will speed the commercialization process and, over time, produce significant contributions to the Texas economy and society.”

The TIF fund was authorized after an internal analysis determined that potential products developed at UT institutions often require additional effort and capital to attract investors to commercialize the inventions. Funds could be used for personnel, equipment, supplies, instrument use fees, business plans and, in some limited circumstances, faculty support and patent costs.

“Early indications are that the TIF is serving pent-up demand for seed capital to move research discoveries into commercial space,” UT System Vice Chancellor for Research and Technology Transfer Keith McDowell said. “The first round of TIF proposals were of very high quality, and tech transfer professionals on the campuses report that researchers they had never met are bringing their ideas forward because of the potential for TIF funding.”

Each winning proposal was awarded grants ranging from $10,000 to $50,000.

The TIF program was created by the UT System’s Office of Research and Technology Transfer, which was established by Chancellor Yudof in 2005 to develop and implement strategies to expand and enhance research activities at UT System institutions. In Fiscal Year 2007, the state invested $1.7 billion in the 15 UT institutions through general revenue, enabling exploration, innovation and ingenuity while educating an advanced workforce. These funds supported $1.8 billion in additional funds spent on research endeavors, resulting in 14 start-up companies (66 in the last five years), 117 U.S. patents (553 in the last five years), and 655 invention disclosures (2,770 in the last five years), ultimately creating new jobs, products and services.

About The University of Texas System

The UT System is one of the nation’s largest higher education systems, with nine academic campuses and six health institutions. The UT System has an annual operating budget of $10.7 billion (FY 2008) including $2.3 billion in research funded by federal, state, local and private sources. Student enrollment exceeded 194,000 in the 2007 academic year. The UT System confers more than one-third of the state's undergraduate degrees and educates nearly three-fourths of the state's health care professionals annually. With more than 81,000 employees, the UT System is one of the largest employers in the state.