The academic engine that propels young companies

October 26, 2020

Like universities around the world, the University of Florida helps startup companies get off the ground with the support of a business incubator and leading-edge high performance computing.

Around the world, universities are not just centers for teaching and research, but also engines for product innovation and business incubation. Countless numbers of startup companies have grown out of the research programs and business incubators of the halls of academia.

Classic examples here include the many Silicon Valley tech companies that have been propelled forward by discoveries made in the research programs at universities in the region. But the truth is, you can find examples of exciting startups that have spun out of universities just about everywhere.

At the University of Florida (UF), an expansive startup program has helped launch more than 200 biomedical and technology companies that grew out of the fertile soil of the university’s huge research program. These young companies have generated more than $1 billion in private investment since 1985, according to UF Innovate | Tech Licensing, the university’s arm that nurtures startups.[1]

While not every startup succeeds, the University of Florida’s track record for launching new companies has been quite impressive. Many of the companies that grew out of the UF research programs are truly making a difference in the world around us.

A few examples:

  • AGTC develops genetic therapies to treat patients with rare inherited conditions.
  • Axogen provides solutions to restore feeling and functionality to damaged nerves.
  • Banyan Biomarkers develops biomarkers to help clinicians diagnose traumatic brain injuries.
  • K&A Wireless manufactures advanced technology solutions for first responders, law enforcement and military.
  • Sharklet develops non-toxic, topography-based products to improve human health.
  • ViewRay give clinicians new and better ways to treat cancer with radiation therapy.

The resources of a supercomputer

Many of these startups require the power of a supercomputer for high performance computation, data visualization and analysis. To meet this need, the startups under the umbrella of the university can make use of HiPerGator 2.0, a powerful Dell Technologies supercomputer operated by UF Information Technology’s (UFIT) Research Computing department.

In its latest 2.0 iteration, the evolving HiPerGator system has a total of 46,000 cores and a 3-petabyte high performance Lustre file system. The system also delivers the power of 120 terabytes of RAM, a Mellanox interconnect and multiple types of accelerators. The system has a theoretical maximum speed of 1.1 petaflops.

“We support many startup companies that are associated with the University of Florida,” said Dr. Erik Deumens, scientist and director, UF Information Technology – Research Computing. “We’re proud to be one of the first institutions in the nation in terms of creating and supporting startups.”

Deumens noted that as long the companies are in a fledgling status, they can get support from the University of Florida and they can make use of HiPerGator resources at a very cost-effective rate.

UF Innovate is building business on innovation. It is the umbrella organization uniting the four entities that drive the innovation ecosystem at UF. Based at one of the nation’s leading research institutions, UF Innovate comprises Tech Licensing, Ventures, and two business incubators, The Hub and Sid Martin Biotech. Together, those organizations move research discoveries from the laboratory to the market. UF Innovate connects innovators with entrepreneurs, investors and industry, incubates startups and growth companies, and fosters a resilient economy — all in an effort to make the world a better place.

Current Events

Today, many University of Florida startups are jumping in to help with the fight against the COVID-19 disease and the global pandemic it has caused. For example, consider these recent announcements from UF Innovate | Tech Licensing:

  • UF startup Altavian, a drone maker that supplies the US military, has partnered with Sinclair College, an Ohio-based community college, to rapidly produce and freely distribute N95 equivalent masks to front-line medical workers during the pandemic.
  • UF startup Algernon Pharmaceuticals Inc., a clinical-stage pharmaceutical development company, has teamed with contract research organization Novotech for a planned physician-initiated study of a therapy for COVID-19 infected patients in South Korea.
  • Shadow Health, a UF startup that conducts virtual clinical simulations with lifelike digital patients, is helping nursing students at Liberty University continue their clinical training during the pandemic via an online virtual format.

It’s worth noting that without the support of a world-class university and the resources it provides, these companies might never have gotten off the ground.

And today, they are saving lives.

To learn more

To dive down into the details of the evolving UF supercomputer, visit UFIT’s Research Computing  website. Read the Dell Technologies case study or watch the video. To explore technologies and solutions for HPC-driven research in academic and industrial use cases, visit delltechnologies.com/hpc.


[1] University of Florida, “Startup Primer: UF Innovate | Tech Licensing,” 2018.

 

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