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Originally published February 8, 2012 at 2:46 PM | Page modified February 9, 2012 at 11:53 AM

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UW opening incubator facility for startups

The University of Washington is opening lab and office space for startup businesses, part of an effort to commercialize academic research and turn more inventions into products.

Seattle Times business reporter

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The University of Washington is opening lab and office space for startup businesses, part of an effort to commercialize academic research and turn more inventions into products.

The university made the announcement Wednesday as it launched the 23,000-square-foot Center for Commercialization New Ventures Facility, to be housed in Fluke Hall on the campus.

The UW hopes the incubator space will usher in a "new day" of innovation and commercial growth, said Linden Rhoads, vice provost of the Center for Commercialization.

The center, a group of technology managers, entrepreneurs and legal experts, will operate the facility. The idea behind the facility is to help the university strengthen entrepreneurship and develop technology and research that attracts investors. The facility can hold up to 15 startups but will expand to accommodate nearly 25, said Debbie Woo, marketing officer at the center. Startups at the facility have to have a connection to UW research.

Nexgenia is one of three firms set to move into the space. The company works with polymers to create in vitro diagnostic assays that it wants to sell to larger companies, such as Roche Diagnostics.

"Lots of companies that are UW startups have wanted a space like this; lab space in Seattle is a scarcity," said Tom Schulte, Nexgenia's founder and president. "It's a hot property."

The other two initial startups in the space are Vixim, which is developing simulation software for cloud environments, and Envitrum, which is working on a process that turns waste glass into green building materials.

Rhoads said the facility's location is "ideal" because it is close to faculty researchers and to the expensive equipment their work relies on.

The UW has been trying to make a bigger impact in the commercialization of research, hoping to double the number of startups spun out of the UW from an average of 10 a year to 20 over the next three years. It says it has helped create more than 260 companies in the state with university-based innovations.

The university's new president, Michael Young, has been a longtime proponent of translating academic work into business opportunities, becoming a nationally recognized leader in commercialization efforts in his former role as president of the University of Utah.

The UW hired Rhoads in 2008 partly for her experience as a Seattle entrepreneur, with hopes that she would revamp commercialization programs. She said that even before Young came to the UW she had visited schools like the University of Utah and others with advanced commercialization programs "to see what was in their water."

"We hope to spur many more companies out of the university every year," she said. "We provide help for companies to more quickly have the momentum to spin out and begin."

Rhoads also manages the W Fund, one of three initiatives supported by a $19.7 million federal grant. The venture capital fund is expected to exceed $25 million in contributions from private investors.

Atia Musazay: 206-464-2718 or amusazay@seattletimes.com

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