Fostering Innovation at UT
Last week I attended a forum on the research mission of universities sponsored by The Academy of Medicine, Engineering and Science of Texas. The forum included an impressive group of panelists: David Booth, chairman of Dimensional Fund Advisors; Ray Bowen, chairman of the National Science Board (and former president of Texas A&M); Michael Brown, Nobel Laureate and faculty member at UT Southwestern Medical Center; David Daniel, president of UT Dallas; UT’s Tinsley Oden, associate VP for research; and UT alumnus Rex Tillerson, chairman and CEO of ExxonMobil. Larry Faulkner, president of the Houston Endowment and former president of UT, moderated the panel. Collaboration between research universities and the private sector was discussed, and I’d like to expand on UT Austin’s efforts in fostering innovation—both here and around the globe.
At UT, we collaborate with private companies every day. For example, UT’s Austin Technology Incubator (ATI) helps innovative start-up companies from Texas and around the world become successful. ATI, led by Director Isaac Barchas, surrounds early-stage companies with talent that they often cannot afford to buy. UT offers access to mentors in the technology community, including entrepreneurs, faculty researchers, legal and accounting professionals, and investors. In return, UT provides unique learning and research opportunities for our students and faculty. UT also receives a small equity interest in the companies.
In fact, it was recently announced that Xeris Pharmaceuticals of California is relocating to Austin in order to join ATI. Xeris, which is developing products to treat endocrine diseases such as diabetes, was attracted by Austin’s entrepreneurial culture and UT’s resources in the life sciences and biotechnology.
Xeris joins nine companies that have relocated to Austin to join ATI during the past two years. They come from California, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, North Carolina, Australia, India, and South Korea. ATI has worked with about 50 companies during the last three years, helping them to raise $75 million to launch and expand. Of course, not all these companies will stay in Texas and not all will survive, but so far, ATI-affiliated companies have a remarkable record of success.
Bringing innovative companies to campus is good for our students, our faculty, and for the Texas economy. When these companies succeed, they employ our graduates, sponsor faculty research projects, generate revenue for UT, and develop products that benefit society.