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Survey: Innovative U.Va. Ventures Create Economic Growth

UPDATED, Sept. 25, 2013, 10:15 a.m., to correct photo caption.

Business ventures with research-and-development ties to the University of Virginia have created more than 850 jobs and pumped millions of dollars into the regional and state economies, according to a new report by U.Va. Innovation.

The report is based on U.Va. Innovation’s inaugural venture survey, distributed to 53 active companies founded on U.Va. research discoveries. U.Va. Innovation seeks to maximize the impact of University research through strategic partnerships and new business development.

“University of Virginia researchers are having a significant human impact through innovation,” University President Teresa A. Sullivan said. “They’re developing devices that make surgery less invasive and more widely available, designing environmentally friendly housing for people displaced by disaster, and creating educational tools that improve children’s literacy.

“With support from U.Va. Innovation and other valuable resources, the spin-off companies built on U.Va. research discoveries create jobs, attract investments and, in the process, boost the economy across the Commonwealth and beyond.”

The companies surveyed range from Tau Therapeutics LLC (est. 2003), a Charlottesville-based biotechnology company conducting clinical trials on its lead brain cancer therapeutic; to Teachstone Training LLC (est. 2008), an educational services company employing 55 in Charlottesville that provides research-based tools for improving student learning and development; to Indoor Biotechnologies Inc. (est. 1997), a world leader in the detection of environmental allergens, with offices in Charlottesville and the United Kingdom.

“To be an engineer is to use science and mathematics to create solutions to societal problems,” said James H. Aylor, dean of the U.Va. School of Engineering and Applied Science. “Innovation and entrepreneurship – the ability to think outside the box and to get your idea from the lab to the consumer – are essential aspects of our research endeavors. These statistics directly represent the many ways innovation and entrepreneurship in the Engineering School and throughout U.Va. impact the world.”

Conducted earlier this year, the survey focused on several aspects of economic development, including job creation and external funding. Survey responses were supplemented with publically available data and University records.

Among the findings:

  • Job Creation: The active U.Va.-affiliated ventures have created 862 jobs, 421 of which are located in the Charlottesville-Albemarle region and 101 of which are held by U.Va. alumni. Additionally, the ventures have employed 92 U.Va. student interns.
  • External Funding: The ventures have generated more than $329 million in external funding, including investment capital as well as grants for research and development. Local ventures have attracted the majority of this funding, bringing $192 million into the Charlottesville-Albemarle economy. Twenty-one of the ventures are currently raising funds.
  • Real Estate: Local ventures’ offices and labs occupy approximately 125,000 square feet of real estate in Charlottesville/Albemarle.
  • Products: A total of 342 products are currently on the market or in development with these ventures. (Products founded on University research are represented on U.Va. Innovation’s product pipeline.)
  • Sponsored Research: The innovation-based companies have invested approximately $14 million in sponsored research at U.Va., funding research and development in University labs.

“U.Va. affiliated spin-off companies comprise an important part of the innovation and research ecosystem around U.Va. and the Charlottesville region,” said Thomas C. Skalak, U.Va.’s vice president for research. “The continuum of research activities supported by U.Va. – basic research, translational and proof-of-concept programs, and robust technology transfer and new business development focusing on our innovation assets – helps to ensure that our research enterprise is well-connected with the economy of the region, the Commonwealth, the nation and the world.”

The companies surveyed reported receiving support from a number of U.Va. and community resources, including U.Va. Innovation’s Venture Forward business mentoring network, the U.Va.–Wallace H. Coulter Translational Research Partnership, U.Va.’s i.Lab Incubator, the Carilion Biomedical Institute, the Charlottesville Technology Incubator and the Central Virginia Small Business Development Center.

“The amount of effort U.Va. contributes to helping spin-out companies become successful is unsurpassed,” said Jeff Pompeo, CEO of Charlottesville biotech company PocketSonics Inc., maker of the Sonic Window pocket-sized ultrasound imaging device. “The licensing group in particular works diligently to help create and sustain win-win partnerships throughout the dynamic life-cycle of a startup.”

In March, Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell approved a state budget amendment providing $1 million to create a U.Va. economic development accelerator “to increase research and promote technology-based business development.”

“U.Va. Innovation is a unique, enterprise-focused innovation management organization providing best practices in technology transfer, intellectual property management and commercialization to the U.Va. research and entrepreneurial community,” said W. Mark Crowell, executive director of U.Va. Innovation and associate vice president for research at U.Va. “We are committed to facilitating the translation and commercialization of U.Va.’s innovation assets in ways that advance knowledge, create new businesses and jobs and facilitate the development of new products for the marketplace. We congratulate our network of affiliated spin-off companies for their tremendous record of success.”

For information about U.Va. Innovation, click here. For a listing and interactive map of companies founded on U.Va. research discoveries, click here.

by Morgan Estabrook

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