Center helps faculty with start-up companies



Two incubators on UK’s campus are providing the necessary tools for start-up companies to hatch.

The Advanced Science & Technology Commercialization Center, better known as ASTeCC, and AgTeCC, the Agricultural Technologies Commercialization Center, are allowing university faculty to take their research outside the classroom and into the business world. ASTeCC currently has 15 technology-based companies.

“One of the missions of the university is to make our technology available in the marketplace and also to create jobs and companies,” said Deb Weis, director of marketing communications for the UK Office for Commercialization and Economic Development. “These start-up companies are the beginning of that (goal).”

Weis said commercializing research is a mandate for all research universities.

“All universities own the patents and the technology, so the way the faculty can stay involved is by making a start-up company,” she said.

Typically the companies start because a faculty member has developed technology in the faculty research lab that he or she wants to license from the university, Weis said.

“It goes beyond their faculty research role to create a commercial product,” she said.

UK President Lee Todd is set to address leaders in business, government and education during a session titled

“From the Lab to the Marketplace — Crossing the Valley of Death” during a U.S. Department of Commerce forum in Washington.

Weis said she hopes the session will lead people to understand that  start-up companies are important to Kentucky’s future by creating new technology-based companies and new jobs, including jobs for UK graduates. She said she also believes the start-up companies can contribute to UK’s top-20 goal.

While the university does benefit from the revenue of the start-up companies, Weis said the goal is not so much about producing revenue, but about development.

“(The companies) start off in the incubator here on campus and as they grow, they will move out, they will hire more folks, and hire more UK graduates,” Weis said. “They will grow their company in Kentucky. It isn’t so much about producing revenue, but we do get licensing revenue, and after all of our patent costs are recouped, the university has a payback. The inventors and the departments and the colleges of these faculties all get a piece of the licensing revenue.”

Weis said the Office for Commercialization and Economic Development is starting to bring on commercialization executives that will work directly with the colleges and the faculty, helping them to form their own start-up company or work with an industry partnership.

“Our industry partnerships are very important,” Weis said.

ASTeCC is UK’s premier business incubator, providing services such as leasing space, intellectual property protection, commercialization and licensing and industry partnerships, according to the Web site for the Office of Commercialization and Economic Development.

“(The faculty) know that their technology has potential,” Weis said. “What we bring to the table is the business side. But you’re never 100 percent sure of success. As with research itself, you don’t always know exactly where you’re going when you’re in the lab.”