UA changes focus on moving ideas to the market

Jeff Amerine is confident that a reorganization of technology offices at the University of Arkansas will increase the speed at which research reaches the marketplace.

It was announced Monday (Nov. 26) that the University of Arkansas and University of Arkansas System’s Division of Agriculture reorganized the UA technology office, which will now be known as Technology Ventures.

The changes, which were made Nov. 19, will see Amerine become the director of technology licensing for the university. Lisa Childs, associate vice provost for research and economic development, is now the manager of the intellectual property portfolio for the Division of Agriculture. Essentially, the reorganization allows each entity to better focus on their specialties.

“The technology licensing office at the University of Arkansas, which will now be known as Technology Ventures, plays a vital role in assisting campus researchers to move their discoveries in the lab to the marketplace,” Sharon Gaber, provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs, said in the statement. “These changes will greatly enhance the office's efforts toward the commercialization of the university's intellectual property.”

Amerine, who also works with Innovate Arkansas and numerous other groups to promote entrepreneurship around the state, told The City Wire that the move should streamline the process of moving ideas out of the lab and into the economy.

“The intent is to add additional focus and clarity to the fact that it’s not just about managing the patent process and the intellectual property. ... It’s really about how to accelerate this intellectual property to the market,” Amerine explained. “It’s time to bring this to a world-class level. We have all the right ingredients around here.”

Amerine joined the university as a technology licensing officer in 2008 after an 18-year career as an executive and builder of technology businesses. He held senior leadership positions in seven startup ventures and three Fortune 500 companies and teaches entrepreneurship in the university’s Sam M. Walton College of Business.

Amerine is also an adviser to Innovate Arkansas, an initiative operated by Winrock International for the Arkansas Economic Development Commission that grows and sustains knowledge-based companies in Arkansas. He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy with a bachelor’s degree in physical science in 1984. He also holds a master’s degree in operations management from the UA, conferred in 2009.

“This plan strengthens the commercialization efforts at both the University of Arkansas and Division of Agriculture,” Jim Rankin, vice provost for research and economic development at the university, said in the statement. “A serial entrepreneur, Jeff Amerine continues to implement effective strategies and methods that will lead to commercialization of the U of A’s world-class research.”

Amerine said the move also fits with the directive of Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe.

“The main message here is that this is a recognition of how, like the Governor (Gov. Beebe) has said, how education, innovation, entrepreneurship and economic development all go together,” Amerine said.

Childs, who holds a doctoral degree in genetics from North Carolina State University and a law degree from Loyola University of Chicago, practiced law as a partner in the Chicago office of Michael Best & Friedrich before accepting a joint appointment with the university and division in October 2006.

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The Division of Agriculture is the statewide entity of the University of Arkansas System that includes the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service.

University of Arkansas Technology Ventures, under the supervision of the vice provost for research and economic development, works in cooperation with the university’s office of research support and sponsored programs and the University of Arkansas Technology Development Foundation.

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