In a record for UC Davis entrepreneurship, the university said Wednesday it launched 14 technology companies based on campus inventions in the just-ended fiscal year.
They were the most businesses spun out of the research labs at UC Davis in a single year. By comparison, the university said it was responsible for eight startups the year before.
Developing more startup companies based on UC Davis inventions has been a goal of Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi since she took over at Davis in 2009.
"The leadership is really trying to go in that direction," said David Earp, a Bay Area entrepreneur who is chairman of one of the startups, a medical technology company called Reprovantage. "They're really trying to accelerate the rate of formation of companies."
Reprovantage is trying to develop a system for diagnosing and possibly treating a condition known as subfertility, which makes men less capable of fathering children. The foundation for Reprovantage is a genetic mutation discovered by scientists at Davis.
Earp said the company is in early startup mode, and it's not clear whether it will wind up making its headquarters in Davis or the Bay Area.
That uncertainty illustrates one of the hurdles facing UC Davis officials as they try to create more startups in the Davis-Sacramento area: Many of the companies wind up locating in the Bay Area, partly because of the abundance of startup money and other resources.
Sometimes a company chooses the Bay Area for personal reasons. Tule Technologies, another one of the startups, is based in the East Bay because Chief Executive Tom Shapland's wife has a job there.
Tule is developing a sensor to help farmers measure how quickly water is evaporating in their fields. Shapland said the product is based on research he conducted while earning his Ph.D. at Davis.
"This is fundamentally different from anything that's ever been available to farmers," he said. "This is what they've wanted." Having precise data on evaporation will enable growers to use water more efficiently, he said.
Campus officials are continuing to press for more commercialization of UC Davis inventions. On Wednesday, the university announced it has awarded grants of $50,000 each to four professors and researchers through a new program aimed at bringing UC Davis technology to market. The four grants were awarded to Kyria Boundy-Mills, a food science researcher; Charles Hunt, a professor of electrical and computer engineering; Mark Mascal, a chemistry professor; and Jared Shaw, an associate chemistry professor.