UW Opening “New Ventures” Incubator to Support Spin-Offs

2/8/12Follow @curtwoodward

When the University of Washington hired Michael Young to be its new president last year, one qualification that stood out was an impressive record of spinning out companies from his previous employer, the University of Utah.

Today, the UW is taking a step toward fulfilling some of that promise by opening its New Ventures Facility, an incubator offering lab and office space for startups based on the school’s research. The incubator will be run by the university’s Center for Commercialization, which recently topped off a $25 million fund for spinning out public university research.

Tech startup incubators have been erupting across the American business landscape in the past few years, as faster, cheaper, more powerful software and hardware makes it very inexpensive to start a new company and investors look for ways to place broader bets on a crop of entrepreneurs. Seattle has a branch of the prominent TechStars program, which is also partnering with Microsoft to organize a separate accelerator program for startups working on the Kinect motion and sound sensor.

The UW plans to talk in detail about the New Ventures incubator at a launch event later today, and I’ll update with more color from the scene. It promises to be a bright spot for the university amid an era of steep cutbacks in money from the state, which is still struggling with lax tax collections following the Great Recession. Tuition has already increased to compensate for less state money, and the UW is likely to soon start charging different prices for in-demand majors for the first time.

UW’s commercialization efforts already have seen several spinouts in life sciences and information technology, including notable names like Fate Therapeutics and Farecast, now part of Bing’s travel search. The Center for Commercialization also has a strong collection of entrepreneurs-in-residence, with folks like Ken Myer and Luni Libes on the roster.

Curt Woodward is a senior editor for Xconomy based in Boston. Email: cwoodward@xconomy.com Follow @curtwoodward

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