First UH Accelerated Research Commercialization Grants Awarded

University of Hawaiʻi
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Posted: May 22, 2003

University Connections, a University of Hawaiʻi program founded to help connect entrepreneurs inside and outside the university with the resources they need to succeed, has awarded the first three Accelerated Research Commercialization (ARC) grants for research and development (R&D) projects involving UH faculty and Hawaiʻi technology companies.

ARC is a new UH program to fund R&D projects involving UH scientists and local technology companies. UH provides matching funds for projects conducted by UH scientists and sponsor companies, who also provide cash and in-kind resources for the projects. UH and sponsor companies both benefit from commercialization of the technologies through licensing agreements negotiated by UH‘s Office of Technology Transfer and Economic Development (OTTED).

The following ARC awards were made:

$47,000 to Dr. Thomas Hemscheidt of the UH Mānoa Department of Chemistry to work with Hawaiʻi Biotech, Inc. to identify bioterrorism drug candidates from plants and marine algae. Approximately 640 natural product extracts will be tested for their ability to neutralize anthrax and botulism toxins. Potential leads could enable treatments for people after exposure to bioterrorism.

$62,884 to Professor Michael Antal, Jr. of the university‘s Hawaiʻi Natural Energy Institute to work with Pacific Carbon and Graphite, LLC to develop a catalytic afterburner for a flash carbonization unit. Flash carbonization is a UH patented technology to produce charcoal from biomass. It has applications in the metal industry, food industry, and agriculture.

$36,553 to Dr. Keith Horton of UH Mānoa‘s Hawaiʻi Institute of Geophysics and Planetology to work with Innovative Technical Solutions, Inc. (dba NovaSol) to develop a prototype sensor for measuring different gases. The "FLYSPEC" will be a lightweight portable sensor for real-time measurement of different gases to replace a much bulkier unit that must be moved around by vehicle. Immediate applications include measuring volcanic gases at different sites around the world, and potentially measuring different emissions that the EPA monitors.

The university sees the ARC program as one way to implement its goals for economic development through developing industry partnerships.

"The ARC program demonstrates the university‘s commitment to work with local companies to diversify our economy," said UH Mānoa Chancellor Peter Englert. "Even in these tough economic times, it‘s important for us to apply some of our scarce resources to help expand our economy in the future."

"Our success in building a stronger technology industry in Hawaiʻi depends a lot on our ability to leverage our different R&D assets," noted David McClain, UH Interim Vice President for Research. "ARC provides good leverage to stimulate applied research at UH and move our technologies into the global marketplace."

The ARC program appears to fulfill some important needs in the local technology industry. "The ARC grant enables our company to explore a very important area of therapeutics for bioterrorism," said David Watumull, CEO of Hawaiʻi Biotechnology, Inc. "We have access to some top scientists at UH for this project, and having many of the licensing terms spelled out up front will make it easier for us to commercialize any successful outcomes."

Dr. Rick Holasek, vice president of NovaSol, adds, "Our ARC grant allows us to continue fostering our working relationship with the University of Hawaiʻi. We are in the business of producing commercial products and UH is in the business of basic R&D, so it is a win-win strategic fit for both organizations as well as for the state of Hawaiʻi."

The first round of proposals suggests a promising future for the ARC program. "We had more good ideas than we could fund," said UH Connections Director Keith Mattson. "I hope interest in ARC grows and generates many more project ideas. We need more companies and UH scientists to explore R&D partnerships. There‘s so much latent potential for economic development."

Mattson would like to see the ARC program grow, ideally, with some state funding as was done in California. A similar program there has funded about 1,000 projects involving over 600 companies and 900 University of California scientists since 1997.

"California started with $3 million from their university and $6 million from the state to match $9 million from industry sponsors," explained Mattson. "Their program grew to over $60 million in 2002, with $3 million from the university, $21 million from the state, and the rest from industry sponsors. California clearly sees the value of this kind of grant for increasing their capacity to innovate."

For more information about the ARC Grant Program, visit www.connections.hawaii.edu.

For more information, visit: http://www.connections.hawaii.edu