The University of Hawaiʻi has launched XLR8UH, a major commitment to transform the university’s world-class research and talent into viable products and businesses. XLR8UH is the name of the university’s first Proof of Concept Center. The focus is on investing in innovative ideas and providing a launch pad for commercialization.
“Traditionally, we worked hard to license our technology and what we are doing now is, this is a new approach,” explained UH President David Lassner. “We’re actually going to take the great ideas from our students and faculty and help them determine whether or not we can bring these to market, create new businesses.”
“Is a program that takes technologies that they have been produced and created within the University of Hawaiʻi; whether this is by our students, our alumni, our faculty, our researchers; and try to accelerate it,” added Vassilis L. Syrmos, the UH Vice President for Research and Innovation. His office is in charge of the program.
Students, faculty and alumni accepted to XLR8UH must successfully complete an entrepreneurial, commercialization program conducted in conjunction with PACE, the Pacific Asian Center for Entrepreneurship, part of the UH Mānoa Shidler College of Business. PACE runs the popular UH business plan competition and provides the necessary education, guidance and resources to empower UH entrepreneurs with the skills, connections and expertise needed for startup success.
“We give them some additional funding, we help them to produce a business plan, development, product development and try to find funding,” said Syrmos.
“Perhaps gaining money through one of our UH Foundation partnerships or state partnerships, as we move along the way to identifying private capital that can turn some of these ideas into businesses,” said Lassner.
Among the first seven XLR8UH groups or cohorts is the company Diagenetix Inc., developing hand held instruments for agriculture to enable detection of everything from plant disease to the sex of a papaya.
“I think to have a business environment and have the university facilitate, having the mentorship and the business community back up these ventures, is really important in order to really develop these commercial products,” said Daniel Jenkins an XLR8UH cohort member from Diagenetix and UH Mānoa associate professor in molecular biosciences and bioengineering.
XLR8UH is a major component of one of university’s key strategic directions, the Hawaiʻi Innovation Initiative, a partnership with the Hawaiʻi Business Roundtable.
“That’s the work of the university to diversify Hawaiʻi’s economy and create more great jobs here, in partnership with the business community, to really create a third leg of the economy alongside tourism and military spending,” said Lassner.