A number of startup businesses have spun off from the Arizona Center for Innovation at the University of Arizona Tech Parks—and newly-named director Carol Stewart will continue the work of aiding the advancement of similar companies with promise.
The mission of AzCI is to support early-stage technology companies in specific focus areas including Biotechnology; Informatics and Big Data; Imaging, Optics, and Photonics; Mining; Security and Defense; Agriculture and Water; Advanced Energy and Advanced Manufacturing.
“Companies can be at any stage of development, but those that gain the most benefit are generally in the start-up or emerging phase of business development,” said Tech Parks spokesperson Jessa Turner. “It’s our job to create interactive ground which will generate, attract, and support tech companies and talent in alignment with the goals of the UA.”
At least eight such companies have been involved with the Arizona Innovation Center in the 2017-2018 time period, some fighting cancer, some involved with solar energy, some creating new medicines to work with genetics.
One such firm, Emagine Solutions Technology LLC, is a digital health company whose software transforms doctors’ cell phones or tablets into a portable ultrasound machine that eliminates the traditional bulky cart ultrasound mechanism and can accommodate a variety of probes. The company says its Vistascan software is eight to 10 times cheaper than regular machines.
In recognition of their out-of-the-box thinking, Emagine took top honors in the Startup Pitch Competition sponsored by Cox Business Get Started Arizona.
That event brought together half a dozen entrepreneurs who pitched their ideas (four of the six companies were working on products designed for the medical field) to a panel of expert judges for a winner-take-all grand prize of $25,000 in cash. Not only did Emagine win big with the grand prize, they were also awarded an audience-selected People’s Choice prize of a thousand dollars for social media.
As he frequently does at events of this nature, Mayor Jonathan Rothschild was on hand to tell his audience: “Tucson helps launch entrepreneurs to grow successful businesses with folks who live here and with business districts designed to attract and grow new entities—we’re just getting started.”
As a unit of Tech Parks Arizona, AzCI cited its close working relationship with company founders Courtney Williams and Jose Juarez to move their firm and its technology through the commercialization process by providing structure business development assistance along with mentor coaching from professionals experienced in tech innovation, product development, and business management.
In Emagine’s case, they helped make the difference.
“Arizona Center for Innovation helped us to progress quickly and strategically,” said co-founder and CEO Courtney Williams. “They provided mentorship and industry knowledge, access to events and workshops, and invested time and effort in helping us advance via grant, doing so by understanding our company mission, goals, and the direction we want to grow in. They were invaluable to our startup.”
Another big idea/big business effort involves another UA project, Tech Launch Arizona, whose mission is to commercialize inventions coming out of university research. Recent figures showed over a dozen startup companies, in excess of 100 licenses for UA technology, and well over 250 invention disclosures.
At the 2018 Invention to Impact Expo and Awards ceremony honoring some of the standout efforts, University President Robert. C. Robins noted that UA is among the Top 25 public universities in the field of research because we create an environment of entrepreneurship.
“The UA’s future impact depends on turning discoveries into products, processes, and goods that will benefit us all and help drive Arizona’s economy,” he said. “Our culture and spirit make this an important part of the field of discoveries that ultimately translate into turning the world into a better place.”
The 2018 Startup Company of the Year was Codelucida, a local startup based on data storage and error correction, cited as an example of what hard work and doing the right thing can bring about.
Shiva Planjery, company CEO, noted: “2.5 billion gigabytes of information are generated each and every day, so we’re at the right place at the right time with our technology.”
Also lauded at those award ceremonies was a company called Regulonix whose efforts are aimed at developing non-opiod drugs to combat chronic pain.
“We have a different approach to doing drug discovery,” said Dr. Rajesh Khanna, the firm’s chief scientific officer. “Our end goal is to develop something that’s non-addictive and, through a decade of laboratory research, we’ve come up with a way to surpress pain not with drugs, but by targeting the excitability of cells.”