A $2.4-million grant from the Office of Naval Research will enable the University of Hawaiʻi to develop and advance energy, marine and other blue economy (conserving marine and freshwater environments) technologies and opportunities in Hawaiʻi.
The funding will help UH provide cross-disciplinary learning opportunities and give students a chance to participate in hands-on projects and entrepreneurial training. The overall aim is to strengthen the state’s economy and workforce.
“We’re grateful to the Office of Naval Research for this unique opportunity to collectively develop and commercialize scalable technologies at UH, while expanding Hawaiʻi’s blue economy innovation and entrepreneurship pathways and building workforce capacity,” said Vassilis L. Syrmos, UH vice president of research and innovation. “Through these targeted initiatives, we will be able to collaboratively identify, develop and translate our world-class research into impact-driven ventures to help diversify and stimulate our state’s economy.”
Through this grant, UH will launch three new programs this year—Hacking4X, Patents2Products and Faculty Fellows—which will be run by the UH Office of Innovation and Commercialization (OIC):
- Hacking4X (H4X) is a semester-long, sprint-like design program launching in January 2023 that will teach students to work through one iteration of the product design process. Students will learn about and go through the Lean Startup methodology with an emphasis on the customer discovery process. At the end of the program, project teams will showcase their work during a pitch competition at an Annual Tri-State Innovation Showcase. Each year, the H4X program will follow a central theme that reflects health and marine challenges within the state of Hawaiʻi. Spring 2023 will focus on Hacking4Environment, with Hacking4Health planned for spring 2024.
- Patents2Products is a year-long funded fellowship opportunity launching in fall 2023. Available to PhD candidates and postdoctoral researchers, Patents2Products fellows will translate innovative ideas into marketable solutions by building the necessary skills to progress proof-of-concept prototypes in the lab to minimum viable products toward commercialization. Fellows will work on research assignments either within a research lab with UH intellectual property or with UH-affiliated companies. Selected participants will broaden their innovation and entrepreneurial skill sets through experiential training workshops to support the assessment of commercial landscapes around respective technologies under development, while supporting product and business development efforts to further advance the technology readiness level. Applications will open in spring 2023. OIC is currently seeking program partners, including UH-affiliated technology companies or faculty research labs with UH intellectual property, who would value support from Patents2Products fellows. An informational webinar for potential program partners will be held on January 18 at 9 a.m. HST. To register, visit this website.
- Faculty Fellows is a semester-long program, which focuses on enhancing faculty involvement in innovation and entrepreneurship, and establishing an active, collaborative network of colleagues motivated to weave entrepreneurship principles into their teaching and research curriculum. This aligns with the UH 2023–2029 strategic plan, which highlights nurturing an innovation and entrepreneurship culture in the UH community to strengthen next generation workforce development. Piloting in summer 2023, participating faculty will undergo training in Lean Startup methodologies and integrate techniques directly into their courses at the end of the program.
“We developed these highly immersive and experiential training programs to facilitate the transformation of ideas to impact,” said OIC Technology Licensing Officer and Innovation Programs Associate Director Rebecca Chung, one of the grant’s principal investigators. “These programs will prepare researchers to extend their focus beyond the academic laboratory environment. We want to increase the capacity for innovation and accelerate the economic and societal benefits of technological developments.”
Through this initiative, UH will partner with two other public universities, the University of Alaska Fairbanks and the University of Rhode Island.