U.Va. Names Mark Crowell as Its First Executive Director of Innovation Partnerships

May 3, 2010 — The University of Virginia has named W. Mark Crowell, vice president for business development at The Scripps Research Institute, to the newly created position of executive director and associate vice president for innovation partnerships and commercialization.

He will join the Office of the Vice President for Research, guiding faculty and students to new and expanded partnerships. He will build the University's corporate, private and government partnerships and enhance licensing, entrepreneurship and commercialization activities, assuming primary responsibility for the University's commercial alliances.

Crowell, 55, will assume his new job on May 26.

"This is a transformational moment for U.Va.," said Thomas C. Skalak, U.Va. vice president for research. "Mark is a top leader in innovation who has consistently created new opportunities based on the intellectual assets of academic institutions, including Scripps – one of the world's most distinguished research institutions."

Executive Vice President and Provost Dr. Arthur T. Garson Jr. said he looks forward to seeing U.Va. faculty expand their innovation partnerships with Crowell's support and guidance. "He brings highly creative leadership to U.Va.'s commitment to build an innovation ecosystem that is a model for the nation," Garson said. 

Glynn Key, a member of U.Va.'s Board of Visitors and chair of the Educational Policy Committee, said, "Innovation and technology leadership are critical to the University’s posture as a world-class institution and Mark Crowell is a world-class hire."

Crowell has led innovation in commercialization models throughout his career, creating impact around the world.  Commercialization programs under his guidance helped launch more than 135 start-up companies and numerous products and services.

His arrival marks U.Va.'s latest step in developing new models for innovation, corporate partnerships and faculty entrepreneurship. "Universities are increasingly recognized as central to economic growth because they are the origin of new ideas that can change the world and improve people's lives," Skalak said.

Over the past five years, U.Va. researchers have reported the invention of 885 new technologies, 302 of which have been licensed to companies and institutions for further development. In addition, U.Va. has entered into strategic research partnerships with major corporations and industry leaders such as AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson and Rolls-Royce, as well as a novel translational research partnership with the Wallace H. Coulter Foundation.

Crowell will be charged with integrating the University's technology transfer operations – including the U.Va. Patent Foundation – to enhance deal flow and build new relationships with external partners. "Mark will maintain a highly innovative and entrepreneurial environment in the University's research enterprise," Skalak said.

Crowell said he welcomes the challenge.

"My focus is on serving faculty members, enhancing research collaborations and connecting innovators with business, industry, entrepreneurs and venture capital," he said. "It's also critical to build a local and regional entrepreneurial ecosystem that will facilitate commercialization and start-ups."

Brian Wamhoff, associate professor of medicine, said he's eager to work with Crowell. "It's important that we bring U.Va. discoveries to the public, whether through partnerships with industry or start-up companies that can create opportunity here in Charlottesville," he said. "Mark's personal passion for faculty entrepreneurship, coupled with a deep national network, will make this possible."

Miette Michie, interim executive director and CEO of the U.Va. Patent Foundation, also said she looks forward to working with Crowell to enhance and integrate U.Va.'s commercialization programs.

"Mark has a deep understanding of the challenges and rewards associated with university technology commercialization," she said. "He will be a great asset to the many offices at U.Va. who are already engaged in this activity, including the Patent Foundation."

Whether they come from university or business communities, those who have worked with Crowell hold him in high regard. Former U.Va. Patent Foundation Board chairman Charles Hamner, widely recognized as an architect of Research Triangle Park in North Carolina, said Crowell was instrumental in the development of productive relationships between the faculty at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and the venture and corporate communities.

"He helped the Research Triangle Park grow to its current stature as a model of university-corporate collaboration and economic growth," Hamner said.

Robert Blouin, dean and Bryson Distinguished Professor at UNC's Eshelman School of Pharmacy, said Crowell helped create major new initiatives in drug discovery, working closely with faculty and global partners. "In the new world of university and corporate partnerships for research innovation, Mark is a thought leader who balances the diverse interests of each partner," Blouin said.

Crowell's business savvy has also earned him the respect of the venture capital community, said Glenn Kline, former managing partner at Academy Funds and current president and CEO of 360ip, an international intellectual property investment and management company in Singapore.
 
"Mark has been a visionary in creating early-stage funds and partnerships in the process of bringing discoveries to the marketplace," he said. "His effective interpersonal skills have helped him be a game-changer at every institution he's been at. He will bring a growth mentality to U.Va. and increase global recognition for U.Va. as a destination for commercialization."

Noted Dr. Garheng Kong, a general partner at Intersouth Partners who has moved a large number of deals out of universities: "Mark has built significant relationships with the venture capital community in North Carolina, San Diego and across the nation, moving new ideas from the university to the public. I have the highest regard for Mark's talents.  He is a leader who will help U.Va. accelerate the unique innovation culture it has advanced."

Crowell holds two degrees from UNC: a master's in regional planning with emphasis in economic development and a bachelor's in international studies.

Before joining La Jolla, Calif.-based Scripps, Crowell for more than eight years led economic development and technology transfer efforts at UNC. He was instrumental in creating many new innovation and business development resources and expanded relationships with investors from North Carolina to Singapore.

While at UNC, he served on the boards of directors of the Council for Entrepreneurial Development, the Research Triangle Regional Partnership and the North Carolina Biotechnology Center, and he was a member of the Orange County (N.C.) Economic Development Commission. Prior to joining UNC, Crowell held similar positions at North Carolina State University and at Duke University.

Crowell was president of the Association of University Technology Managers in 2005 and is the founding president of its recently launched foundation. His consulting and advisory activities have included a number of U.S. and international academic and policy organizations, including the National Science Foundation, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the National Academies of Sciences, the World Intellectual Property Organization and the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

He also served on the inaugural board of the University-Industry Demonstration Partnership, an initiative coordinated through the National Academies of Sciences designed to enhance collaborations between universities and industry.