U. names 'innovations czar'
New department will promote technology research, inventions
Jack Brittain is the dean of the University of Utah business school. But he earned another pair of titles this past week.
The formal one is vice president. The informal title: "innovation czar."
Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. dubbed Brittain innovation czar during a press conference announcing the formation of a new Office of Technology Venture Department at the U.
Brittain will continue to lead the David Eccles School of Business while he takes up the new job in charge of Tech Ventures and his new formal title, vice president in charge of Tech Ventures. The changes are pending the approval of the university's Board of Trustees, which will consider the matter on Feb. 14.
The office is expected to ease U. inventions and research discoveries from the laboratory into the marketplace. According to the U., the office is charged with identifying emerging technologies, overseeing their commercialization and working with long-range economic effects that result.
"This is something that is going to mean very good things for our state," Huntsman said during the news conference, held in one of the suite of buildings that make up the Evans & Sutherland operation at Research Park.
"I'm one who believes in the idea it isn't the big who eat the small," Huntsman added. "It's the fast who overtake the slow."
The new office will "make us faster and smarter and better able to compete in today's world."
According to the governor, the world is engaged in a race for economic strength. "It isn't just the United States against China, India and Colorado. It's Utah against Colorado, Nevada, Arizona, Wyoming, Idaho.
"And if we're slow off the mark, we lose." The new office will "assure that we are the cutting edge of innovation, development and commercialization," Huntsman added.
James R. Oyler, president and CEO of Evans & Sutherland, said E&S is an example of the way a private business, the university system and the state can interact. The computer graphic company's founders, David Evans and Ivan Sutherland, taught at the U. and started its computer science department. In 1968, they formed the company, which first was housed in an old wooden barracks on campus, with graduate students as employees.
"Thirty-seven years later, we're still here and still true to the spirit of innovation in technology that started the company. Today we're known throughout the world for computer graphics, for flight simulations and for digital theaters and planetariums," Oyler said.
E&S has more than 75 patents developed since the company was founded, plus 20 that are awaiting approval. It received six patents in the last year.
U. President Michael K. Young said lives have been enriched by the contributions of innovators with connections to the university. Besides E&S, he cited Netscape and Silicon Graphics, Adobe and its Photoshop application, WordPerfect, "and of course my personal favorite, Pixar." Pixar Animation Studios created such films as "Finding Nemo" and "The Incredibles."
Founders of these companies had basic training at the U. and developed many of their most important ideas there, he said. With the new office, the university will work to keep such businesses in the state, he said.
Brittain said his job is to create as many jobs as possible in Utah by commercializing innovations that come out of the U. "It is also my job to make sure that current Utah businesses have access to the scientific might that is at the University of Utah, to help them develop competitive advantages and expand employment in Utah."
He said he intends to "dream big for Utah" by encouraging the outstanding science at the university to focus on potential new industries.
Brittain likened the mapping of the human genome in 2003 to Columbus' discovery of the New World in 1492. "Everything will change," he said.According to Brittain, the U. is a world leader "in many areas necessary to take advantage of this opportunity, and we're determined to chart the course others will follow, and use this science to make Utah a leader in the world just over the horizon."
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