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Research Highlight: Keith Marmer, Director of TVC

The Center for Technology & Venture Commercialization: Your Best Business Partner 

Since 1965, The Center for Technology & Venture Commercialization (TVC) has been revolutionizing the standard of leadership in technology commercialization—the process of turning the ground-breaking discoveries made at the University of Utah into life-changing and cutting-edge products and services that serve to strengthen our communities of Utah, our nation, and the world.  

On behalf of the University of Utah, TVC acts as a catalyst for the regional ecosystem. The center is a responsibility powerhouse for all aspects of invention management, patent prosecution, licensing, startup formation & support, equity management, and early stage funding. We asked Associate VP & Executive Director of the center, Keith Marmer,  to share his vision for the bright future of TVC.  

 

Q. What is your vision as Director of TVC?  

As executive director of TVC, my vision is to go beyond the management of intellectual property and licenses, to be the central catalyst for innovation and commercialization at the U and in our region. Given the entrepreneurial culture at University of Utah, TVC is poised to serve as a nexus for industry, entrepreneurs, investors and other stakeholders to engage with the U to foster promising research to create value and have impact on society. 

 

Q. How did you first become interested in technology commercialization, and what did your path to TVC Directorship look like? 

After exiting my last start-up, I was working as a consultant when I was hired as a professor to teach entrepreneurship. It was while working at a university in Philadelphia that I learned about academic technology transfer. I was immediately taken by the possibility to work so closely with innovative researchers and help them to commercialize their ideas. As an entrepreneur, it was very appealing to be able to give back and help others with their big ideas. 

 

Q. How has the scope of TVC changed or expanded during your time as the Director? 

 We have been transforming TVC to place greater emphasis on value creation and impact. Historically, TVC has had a transactional approach to tech transfer. While this can be useful in terms of initial “tech transfer” it doesn’t necessarily provide the best platform to ensure innovative research makes it to market. I believe strongly that the basis for success is rooted in strong relationships. We are changing virtually every facet of our operation to focus on stakeholder relationships in order to provide the long-term support necessary for early innovations to become successful products and services. On average, it takes almost a decade for most inventions to reach the market. This requires TVC to greatly expand the support we can and should provide.  

 

Q. What does TVC need to enhance or advance technology commercialization across campus?  

Partnerships and patience. First, I want TVC to be viewed as a partner to innovators across campus. I’m aware that there can be a tendency to view TVC as a gatekeeper. The reality couldn’t be further from the truth. And that’s where patience comes in. What we do is complex and often misunderstood. For example, TVC is responsible for managing a number of federal compliance requirements that help ensure the U’s ability to receive federal research funding. Our team works hard to balance the often-competing requirements of the different stakeholders we serve. 

 

Q. The VPR Units work hard behind the scenes to make sure that research conducted at the University of Utah is safe, effective, innovative, and practical. How can other units on campus partner with TVC to enhance or support the logistics of technology commercialization? 

There are many efforts across campus to foster innovation. As I mentioned, I think TVC can and should serve as a nexus both on campus and in our region. With respect to cross-campus collaborations, I’d like TVC to connect with departments on campus to help support anyone seeking to commercialize their work and more broadly engage with industry. There is no single solution so we take the time to learn about every innovation we learn about. We have begun supporting several departments by making introductions to industry, investors and entrepreneurs. We also have our entrepreneurs-in-residence (EIRs) available to meet with folks. These EIRs are successful entrepreneurs that help people learn how to think and engage with industry successfully.  

These are just two of many examples. I look forward to discussing many more ideas for collaboration. Faculty of the University of Utah are encouraged to reach out to the respective technology manager for their college or department for exciting collaboration opportunities. 


TVC recently co-hosted the Entrepreneur & Innovation Summit with BioUtah—a national conference gathering leaders from venture capital, industry and academia to help foster the regional ecosystem. According to Keith, the University of Utah helps launch more life science companies than any other entity in the region—making TVC a natural part of the conversation both regionally and nationally. The center will also be sharing some exciting news about a partnership to launch a business incubator in Research Park in the coming weeks. Faculty are especially encouraged to email events@tvc.utah.edu to be added to the TVC mailing list announcing upcoming events. 

To learn more about TVC, head over to tvc.utah.edu, or follow TVC on:  

Twitter: @UofUTVC 

Instagram: @uofutvc 

LinkedIn: Center for Technology & Venture Commercialization  

For general inquiries, please contact TVC at 801.581.7792 or email info@tvc.utah.edu.

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Last Updated: 3/1/19