This story is from UCLA Today, a discontinued print and web publication.

UCLA startup companies are a source of job growth for the region, state and nation

It seems nearly every level of government — from Congress to the nation's thousands of city councils — is touting small firms and budding entrepreneurs as the means to the kind of job growth that is needed to turn the economy around. In Southern California, UCLA is leading the way with a record number of startup companies that are bringing fresh ideas to the market.
During the 2009–10 academic year, which ended June 30, UCLA entered into 36 licensing agreements to commercialize novel technology; 26 were with small companies. This so-called "technology transfer" was triple that of 2007 and five times greater than a decade ago.
"These startup companies are both a source of new jobs and a new source of jobs," said UCLA Vice Provost Kathryn Atchison, who oversees UCLA's Office of Intellectual Property and Industry Sponsored Research. "As these technologies mature and these companies grow, they will add to the economic development of Los Angeles, California and the nation."
UCLA, one of the nation's premier research institutions, was the first University of California campus to establish a technology-transfer program, in 1990. Since then, the university has overseen dozens of forward-looking technologies as they were developed in campus research labs and found their way into companies throughout the state and nation.
Take, for example, NanoH2O, an El Segundo, Calif., startup that plans to sell technology to desalination plants. The technology, which was invented by UCLA associate professor of civil and environmental engineering Eric Hoek, uses nanoparticles to coat filters used for water desalinization, making them more efficient. NanoH2O was originally housed at UCLA's California NanoSystems Institute, in the campus's first attempt to incubate technology. This led to the development of UCLA's current technology incubator, which houses eight to 10 early-stage projects for one to two years.
Another example is Rayspan, which uses meta-material technology that allows for smaller antennas in cell phones, routers and other wireless gear. Rayspan began by licensing 10 patents from UCLA based on research done by Tatsuo Itoh, a UCLA professor of electrical engineering who hold the Northrop Grumman Chair in Microwave and Millimeter Wave Electronics.
In all, the UCLA Office of Intellectual Property and Industry Sponsored Research manages approximately 1,800 cases and 1,165 active patents. The university received more than $1 billion in research funding for the 2009–10 fiscal year. This large volume of research funding results in a rich variety of invention ideas submitted by UCLA's faculty.
Atchison noted that startup companies that are launched at universities have a higher success rate than those launched in other ways.
"The federal government is very concerned that the U.S. is losing its competitive edge," she said. "Well, universities are great producers of patents and successful new companies."
These companies also provide employment for some of the thousands of students who graduate each year, only to face a tough job market.
There is also a direct benefit to the campus. In 2009–10, UCLA's licensing activity received more than $27 million in royalty and fee income, which is shared with inventors, their labs and research programs at UCLA. By federal law, research done at tax-supported public universities must be managed diligently by the university at which the research was done.
Atchison said it is UCLA's role to learn and understand industry needs and interests and then engage industry partners in the work being done by the university's scientists and other researchers. To that end, the Office of Intellectual Property and Industry Sponsored Research has doubled in size in recent years as it helps develop ideas and work through the many processes required to get them to the marketplace.
"It's an exciting time. Everyone from the federal government on down is rooting for small business, and technology transfer is helping the U.S. remain competitive," Atchison said. "UCLA is not only a leader in creating new technologies but also a leader in producing entrepreneurial faculty, students and staff who want to take the technology forward to become the new products that improve people's lives."
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