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Grace Chou: The Challenges of Commercializing Academic Innovation | Undergraduate research


Challenges of commercializing academic innovation


Grace Chou


Research & Innovation

Organic sketch

As Director of Innovation and Commercialization, Grace Chou leads the overall advancement of the University’s technology commercialization activities and its Innovation Center, a hub for entrepreneurship, collaboration and job creation in downtown Reno and an anchor of the regional innovation ecosystem.

Chou brings extensive corporate experience in R&D, intellectual property, startups, business development, and strategic planning. His career includes leadership roles at DuPont Industrial Biosciences, SRI International, and venture-backed startups, all based in the San Francisco Bay Area. At SRI International, she was a key member of the licensing and business team where she helped launch several technology startups. She has been a guest speaker at early stage investment forums and technology venture capital events in Silicon Valley. She came to the University from the Nevada Governor’s Office of Economic Development where she was director of manufacturing and technology.

Chou is a former board member of the Bay Area Science and Innovation Consortium (BASIC) and taught at the University of Sierra Nevada at Incline Village. She moved to the Tahoe-Reno area in 2016 in part because of her love for the outdoors. She has seen phenomenal growth in entrepreneurial activity in the Tahoe-Reno area and the emergence of Reno as a technology hub.

Chou holds a Ph.D. in chemical engineering from the University of California at Berkeley and a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from the University of Texas at Austin. She also completed executive education at Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management.

Project overview

Universities are an engine of innovation. University professors and researchers are often at the forefront of new ideas, inventions and scientific discoveries. Yet bringing university innovations to market faces a myriad of challenges. This research project aims to identify the main obstacles and challenges to the commercialization of university innovations. Such commercialization of technology is often referred to as “technology transfer”. Each research university has a “technology transfer” office (the TTO). They all face some of the same challenges, such as lack of adequate funding and support, university technology too early to attract commercial customers, faculty time constraints, policy/regulatory hurdles, and more. Are there any challenges or barriers unique to universities and research? Nevada establishments? Are there different challenges in technology transfer between universities and different industries – for example, biotechnology or life sciences versus mining or automotive. What policies and resources are needed to strengthen technology transfer operations in universities? What programs are needed to support faculty entrepreneurs wanting to commercialize their innovations?

The commercialization of academic technologies provides a public benefit to society and humanity, whether it is bringing a new drug to treat a rare disease to patients or developing technology to mitigate climate change. The results of this research have the potential to help government and universities create policies and programs to strengthen the commercialization of university technology.