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At the ready for innovations to come

Written by François Baneyx, UW Vice Provost for Innovation and Director of CoMotion / July 26, 2023

Vice Provost for Innovation on leveraging federal investment in innovation

Dear friends of CoMotion,

Beyond marking a milestone in the widespread adoption of generative AI, 2022 will go down in the history of U.S. innovation for a massive commitment of federal funds toward technological competitiveness and national resilience. Recognizing the need for a departure from traditional approaches to usher in transformative advances in healthcare, the Biden administration instructed the Department of Health and Human Services to create ARPA-H, a new agency that is taking the fail-fast, fail-forward approach of startups to deliver real-world solutions to problems ranging from the molecular to the societal. The CHIPS and Science Act of 2022 prescribed the mission of the National Science Foundation Translation, Innovation and Partnerships Directorate, NSF’s first new directorate in over three decades, with the explicit goal of helping academic researchers bring technologies that address pressing societal problems to the market through entrepreneurship and strategic partnerships. And with numerous incentives to encourage decarbonization, the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 will spur clean tech and climate tech innovations to mitigate the existential impacts of climate change.

The CoMotion team has been hard at work preparing for the outcomes of these investments, and for a not-so-distant future where research and translation merge early on and move in unison toward societal impact. Launched in the spring, our Entrepreneurial Faculty Forum program connects budding faculty entrepreneurs to experienced ones to demystify the startup process, encourage information-sharing, and create a community of practice. Two new mentors in residence, Carla Pagotto in the life Sciences and George Gosieski in the tech vertical, are helping grow investable spinoffs by strengthening the business development acumen, maturity, and communication skills of our project teams. Rounding these initiatives off, the Washington Research Foundation will partially fund our tried-and-true Postdoctoral Entrepreneurship Program (which helped launch 29 startups and licensed eight technologies) so that CoMotion and Washington State University can work together to build out the program statewide.

Our innovation ecosystem has also been groomed for a quickening in the pace of translation through the work of the Innovation Roundtable. In its first two years, the Roundtable endorsed the rollout of our streamlined Husky Fast Start licensing process and launched a site of Creative Destruction Lab at the Foster School of Business to accelerate computational health and manufacturing startups. The Roundtable was also instrumental in creating Pack Ventures, an independent venture capital fund backed by friends and alumni of the University of Washington. Pack boldly and exclusively invests in early-stage UW-affiliated startups, supports CoMotion’s goal of building a more diverse entrepreneurial workforce, and, from internships to sponsorships, gives back to the university and our community. The second cohort of the Innovation Roundtable is already hard at work ideating how next-generation partnerships will transform deep tech innovation, and imagining a new Portage Bay Crossing district that will enable, nurture, and empower our next generation of innovators.

From assistance in finding product-to-market fit, to connections, acceleration and investments, the stage is thus set for UW researchers to take full advantage of forthcoming translational federal funding opportunities and make an impact for the greater good, in Washington state and beyond.

Be well,

Signature of Francois Baneyx

François Baneyx
UW Vice Provost for Innovation and Director of CoMotion