UofL launches office to support research-backed startups

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By Baylee Pulliam

A new office at the University of Louisville will help launch and grow startup companies built on university research and technologies.

UofL New Ventures, within the Office of Research and Innovation, will be dedicated to broad entrepreneurial support, from forging connections with experienced and potential company founders to helping the resulting startups attract funding and market share. The goal is to launch innovative new companies that can spur economic development and move research-backed technologies to market.

“UofL already has a long track record of success in getting its research out into the world as new products, therapies, businesses, educational platforms, creative pieces and other works that can save and improve lives,” said Kevin Gardner, executive vice president for research and innovation. “The creation of this new office ultimately will lead to even greater societal impact of UofL research and the technologies and startups it generates.”

UofL New Ventures will be led by Will Metcalf, associate vice president for research development and strategic partnerships. Its leadership team includes Jessica Sharon, director of innovation programs, and Will Fortune, UofL’s program director for the National Security Innovation Network.

This team has broad and deep expertise, ranging from translational research and commercialization, to corporate innovation and engagement, to launching partnerships that spur regional entrepreneurship.

UofL New Ventures will work closely with the UofL Commercialization EPI-Center, which is responsible for managing the university’s intellectual property and making decisions about its licensing  to existing entities or to new startups. Together, the two units will work to connect UofL IP with potential founders.

As part of that work, UofL New Ventures will oversee the university’s Entrepreneurs-in-Residence program, which brings seasoned founders to UofL to help shepherd technologies to market. The office also will also help manage the LEAP effort to support regional startup development and success, run in collaboration with the Louisville Healthcare CEO Council.

“We’ve had a lot of success and built momentum with these efforts to spur entrepreneurship and innovation on our campus and beyond,” said Metcalf, who helped launch the LEAP entrepreneurship effort and several successful startups. “With this new office, we are bringing several of our efforts together to accelerate that momentum, creating meaningful impact through translational research, innovation, entrepreneurship and economic development.”

UofL, its innovation and commercialization enterprise and its faculty and researchers already have a strong record of pushing university innovations out into the world. In fiscal year 2020, UofL was awarded 48 new patents and earned $9.4 million from license royalties and other related income, its best year on record and a 30% increase over the year prior. The increased income was propelled by a strong year of deals and startups, with seven new companies launched. Those startups include a new company commercializing a university technology for producing low-calorie sweetener and bio-coal from spent distillers’ grain and one commercializing a tool for measuring employee engagement.

More recently, UofL has extended that expertise to other universities, helping to bring innovations from across the state of Kentucky to market through efforts such as Kentucky Commercialization Ventures. UofL also has earned Innovation & Economic Prosperity University designation from the Association of Public and Land Grant Universities, reflecting its institution-wide commitment and impact on regional economic growth and economic opportunity.

For more information, visit the UofL New Ventures website here.