Today's world is, on many fronts, full of uncertainty and disruption. Technology innovation, climate change, globalization, and geopolitics are all factors that contribute to disruption and uncertainty. In this environment, the need for agile thinking and action, frugal innovation with limited resources, and cross-border collaboration of every kind are all imperative. CoMotion, in its own small way, is both itself impacted by uncertainty and disruption in higher education and also helps create an environment to help innovators navigate through this uncertainty and disruption. Now more than ever, we need to focus on how we can best help drive inclusive innovation within the UW community and beyond.
As part of this effort, we are introducing a new tool which depicts the work we do and represents the complete innovation cycle that happens here at the UW through CoMotion. We call it the CoMotion Inclusive Innovation Quadrant. This Quadrant describes the phases that innovators and their ideas go through at the UW and shows the ways CoMotion supports them at each step. The circular nature of the Quadrant and the logo demonstrates how innovations progress and iterate along a life cycle -- though it’s important to note that innovations and ideas may enter and exit our innovation ecosystem at any stage to connect from or with other innovation ecosystems.
Innovations begin with an idea or creation and we have a number of ways at the UW to light that fire including our MakerSpace, our Ideathons and workshops. They then move on to the building phase where we support them with innovation development, IP management, funding, mentors and other learning opportunities. Next, they move into the morphing, or forming, stage where we offer CoMotion Labs startup programs and space, training, advisors and connections to funding. Last, they progress to the scaling phase which includes acquisitions and IPOs, job creation, contributing to the economic development of Washington and beyond, philanthropy, social good, and instilling an innovation mindset.
Last, the outer circle of the quadrant describes more fully the innovation mindset that we work to instill and amplify throughout the UW community. These include factors like empathy, creative problem solving, agility, diversity of thought and collaboration.
One recent compelling example of this cycle is found in Turi, the machine learning and AI startup acquired by Apple last August. The company began as an open-source project at Carnegie Mellon in 2009 under Carlos Guestrin’s guidance. In 2012, he joined the University of Washington’s Department of Computer Science & Engineering (now known as the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering) when Amazon founder Jeff Bezos provided $2 million to endow two professorships in machine learning at the UW for Guestrin and his wife, Emily Fox. Guestrin later spun off the open-source project from the UW into its own company. As he developed his startup, it joined CoMotion Labs where we supported its growth through our various programs. The recent $1,000,000 endowed professorship in AI and machine learning by Guestrin to the UW is a great example of how our investments in startups come back full circle to the UW.
Another example is PvP Biologics, a UW spinout who is developing an oral enzyme for the treatment of celiac disease which affects an estimated 2.4 million Americans. The technology was invented over the course of five years by Ingrid Swanson and David Baker at the University of Washington’s Institute for Protein Design. They recently announced a $35 million agreement with Takeda Pharmaceutical to advance its therapy for the disease. Located continuously in CoMotion Labs, PvP Biologics is giving back through their contribution to the economic development of Washington state.
Football helmet maker Vicis is another case in point. Founded in 2013, the company spun out of UW CoMotion a year later based on technology initially developed by mechanical engineering faculty Per Reinhall and Jonathan Posner, neurosurgery faculty member Sam Browd and led by entrepreneur Dave Marver. The 45-employee company has raised a total of about $28 million. They have spent more than three years developing an impact-reduction football helmet that is expected to hit the market this spring. The football helmet market is estimated at $400 to $500 million.
A fourth example, this one related to the work we do with students, is from the Foster School of Business Health Innovation Challenge. CoMotion is pleased to be supporting all three of the winning projects -- EpiForAll, BWB Anesthesia, and PlayGait. EpiForAll is an affordable EpiPen alternative, BWB Anesthesia is an electricity-free anesthesia machine for low-resource settings and PlayGait is a device to help children with spinal injuries walk. CoMotion is also supporting one of the JARL (“Judges Also Really Liked”) award winners, Quinton PHSH, a project that grew out of the Engineering Innovation Medicine capstone program in Mechanical Engineering that prevents hernias in patients with stomas from gastrointestinal surgery. CoMotion provided a variety of services for these teams including funding through our CoMotion Innovation Fund, prototyping funds, intellectual property management support, marketing analyses, business and legal advice, participation in CoMotion’s Idea to Plan workshop, pitch coaching, and access to mentors.
In this way, you can see the importance of supporting and strengthening the UW innovation ecosystem to empower our students, our faculty and our region. There is a direct cause and effect relationship between the UW’s pursuit of innovation and discovery and the Seattle region’s rise as one of America’s fastest growing and most technologically-savvy regions. As the UW’s collaborative innovation hub, our goal is to expand the economic and societal impact of the UW community and drive positive change for our state and beyond. We are thankful to the ever-growing partnerships with the innovators, startups, labs, departments, and colleges that make this collaborative innovation possible.