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Thursday, April 19, 2018

Academics & Research

Investment deal builds new building, faculty start ups at Energy Research Park


The new facility, slated at $15 million, will house laboratories and startup businesses, complementing the entrepreneurial nature of UH.  |  Courtesy of University of Houston online.

On Wednesday, UH signed a $25 million deal with the Texas Collegiate Regional Center for the construction of a new building at the Energy Research Park which will house laboratories and startup businesses for commercialized technology created by UH faculty.

TCRC, formed by investors David Franklin, Huan Le and James Tao, will include a venture capital fund for foreign investors and will invest between $3 million and $10 million in specific technologies chosen by a board of appointees from both TCRC and UH.

“Developing a more entrepreneurial culture promotes UH’s overall academic and research mission to create new knowledge for the good of society,” said President and Chancellor Renu Khator.

“Ideally, the revenues from this arrangement will be used to support additional research that leads to even more innovation.”

Vice chancellor and vice president for research and technology transfer Rathindra Bose says that the deal is beneficial to the University as well as the city.

“It’s not just the technologies, it’s the whole ecosystem. The city is going to benefit because this is going to be about new technologies. Some of them are going to employ hundreds or thousands of people in the years to come,” Bose said.

In an interview with Xconomy last year, Bose stated that he was looking for students in the Entrepreneurship program to get involved with commercializing UH technologies.

“We’re reaching out to (students) and giving them the earliest technologies and saying, give us a business plan,” Bose said.

Ethan Pedneau, a second year graduate student pursuing a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering, conducts his research at the National Wind Energy Center in the ERP. Pedneau said he is excited about the collaboration that commercialization brings to the University.

“Learning from articles and classes is one thing, but the best way to keep in touch with cutting-edge research in your field is through seminars, conferences and simply being around people who are passionate about their research,” Pedneau said.

Franklin, who serves as executive vice president at Consumer Media Network as well as one of the principal investors in TCRC, echoes the same sentiment.

“Bridging the language gap between business minds and academic minds is just the first challenge of many in commercializing technology,” Franklin said.

“By working through questions about license terms, funding, space, process and structure up front, we think this first-of-its-kind partnership between UH and TCRC will turbo-charge our ability to bring great technologies to market.”

Pedneau, who graduated with a bachelor’s in mechanical engineering from UH, says that deals like the one with TCRC make him glad he didn’t leave the University.

“When I first came to the NWEC, I was very excited about the NWEC and all of the potential at the ERP,” Pedneau said.

“This move seems to be another among many positive steps being taken by the University in the last few years. It was a good decision for me to stay at the University of Houston.”

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