Grace Chou: Challenges of commercializing university innovation
Challenges of Commercializing University Innovation
Research & Innovation
As Chief Innovation & Commercialization Officer, Grace Chou leads the overall advancement of the University’s technology commercialization activities and its Innevation Center, a hub of entrepreneurship, collaboration and job creation in downtown Reno and an anchor to the regional innovation ecosystem.
Chou brings broad corporate experience in R&D, intellectual property, startup ventures, business development and strategic planning. Her career includes senior-level positions with DuPont Industrial Biosciences, SRI International and venture-backed startups, all based in the San Francisco Bay Area. While at SRI International, she was a key member of the licensing & ventures team where she helped launch several technology startups. She has been an invited speaker at early-stage investment forums and technology venture events in Silicon Valley. She came to the University from the Nevada Governor’s Office of Economic Development where she was director of manufacturing & technology.
Chou is a former board member for the Bay Area Science and Innovation Consortium (BASIC) and has taught at Sierra Nevada University in Incline Village. She moved to the Tahoe-Reno area in 2016 partly because of her love for the outdoors. She has seen tremendous growth in entrepreneurial activities in the Tahoe-Reno area and the emergence of Reno as a technology hub.
Chou holds a Ph.D. in chemical engineering from the University of California, Berkeley and a bachelor’s in chemical engineering from the University of Texas at Austin. She has also received executive education from the Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management.
Universities are an engine for innovation. Faculty and researchers at universities are often at the forefront of new ideas, inventions, and scientific discoveries. Yet, bringing university innovations to the marketplace are faced with a multitude of challenges. This research project aims to identify the major barriers and challenges in commercializing university innovations. Such technology commercialization is often referred to as “technology transfer”. Every research university has a “tech transfer” office (the TTO). They all face some of the same challenges such as lack of adequate funding and support, university technology being too early to attract commercial clients, constraints on faculty time, policy/regulation barriers, etc. Are there challenges or barriers unique to the universities and research institutions in Nevada? Are there different challenges in tech transfer between academia and different industries – for example, biotechnology or life sciences vs. mining or automotive. What policy and resources are needed to strengthen tech transfer operations at universities? What programs are needed to support faculty entrepreneurs with the desire to commercialize their innovations?
Commercialization of university technologies provide public benefit to society and mankind, whether it’s bringing a new drug to treat a rare disease to patients or developing a technology to mitigate climate change. The results of this research can potentially help government and universities in creating policies and programs to strengthen technology commercialization from universities.