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The work of Queen’s University professors Gilles Gerbier (left) and Roel Vertegaal (right) enables the continuation of a powerful legacy in research excellence, which includes Arthur McDonald becoming co-winner of the Nobel Prize in physics in 2015. Outcomes include a holographic flexible smartphone called HoloFlex.

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Imagine a place where bright students have access to world-class facilities and expert guidance for applying their creativity and skills to solving today's challenges. Yet beyond creating optimal conditions for coming up with ingenious solutions, there is the question of how to turn the findings into real-world applications.

In response, the University of British Columbia (UBC) has built two solid tracks for bringing inventions to the market – the Entrepreneurship@UBC (e@UBC) and the University-Industry Liaison Office (UILO), says Philip Barker, innovation and entrepreneurship lead at UBC.

"E@UBC is specifically designed to translate the innovations of our students, staff and faculty into ventures," explains Dr. Barker, who has put his own research findings to good use by co-founding a biotechnology company and developing and licensing several technologies. "Through courses, mentorships and workshops, we train individuals to take their ideas and turn them into innovative organizations or companies."

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An example of a successful commercialization coming out of e@UBC is a company called Acuva. "The team, which graduated from e@UBC Accelerator in 2015, created a UV LED drinking water cleansing system that is highly effective," says Dr. Barker. Using ultra-violet (UV) light to destroy bacteria has been a long-accepted technique for making drinking water safe for consumption, and Acuva solved the challenge of producing UV light with new light-emitting diodes (LED) technology. The resulting product is a low-power, zero-maintenance drinking water purification unit that can be installed at the sink.

Dr. Barker adds that Acuva is one of the 36 new companies – many rich in intellectual property in groundbreaking areas – that have been developed at e@UBC since 2013.

The results coming out of the UILO are equally impressive, says Dr. Barker. "The purpose of the UILO is to understand what inventions are being developed at UBC and set the stage for allowing each of them to reach the people who can use them most effectively for creating new products or processes."

“By setting the stage for university-industry partnerships, we’re making it easy for industry to identify potential collaborators and help facilitate the collaborations.”
Philip Barker
is innovation and entrepreneurship lead at the University of British Columbia

A recent high-profile success story is a licensing agreement with pharmaceutical company Roche to develop new prostate cancer therapies based on the work of UBC professors Paul Rennie and Artem Cherkasov, explains Dr. Barker.

Using computer-aided chemo-informatics, the UBC researchers looked at treatment options for prostate cancers that have become resistant to existing therapies. "This is a substantial agreement for UBC, with over $100-million changing hands until the product actually reaches the market," says Dr. Barker. "By setting the stage for university-industry partnerships, we're making it easy for industry to identify potential collaborators and help facilitate the collaborations."

From 2005 to 2015, the work of the UILO resulted in 61 new spinoffs, with 13 in 2016 alone. Collectively, these new ventures have raised $540-million in financing. UBC has licensed 674 research discoveries, which have generated $166-million in licensing revenue for the university, representing approximately $11-billion in sales of products that incorporate patented UBC technologies, says Dr. Barker, adding that UBC is number one in Canada for the total value and number of industry, government and not-for-profit sponsored research contracts.

"Especially over the last few years, UBC has been very effective in identifying pathways for leveraging the fantastic talent at UBC," says Dr. Barker. "We create opportunities that allow people to create new ventures and make it easy for businesses to deploy discoveries made on our campuses in Vancouver and Kelowna."

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There is a high demand for initiatives geared to creating new ventures and partnerships, says Dr. Barker. "It's an area of strong growth. Innovation and entrepreneurship have been identified as a key aspect of the university experience – one that students are looking for and one that the university is keen to support."

This content was produced by Randall Anthony Communications, in partnership with The Globe and Mail's advertising department. The Globe's editorial department was not involved in its creation.

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