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June 8, 1998

Audrey Schwartz Rivers
Johnson Space Center, Houston

Sheldon Smart
University of Houston

Release: J98-18

NASA-University of Houston Technology Incubator Take Texas Business to New Heights

Combine advanced technologies developed for human spaceflight at NASA's Johnson Space Center with the University of Houston's science and business acumen, and Texas gains an innovative resource to take its high-technology sector to new heights.

The UH-NASA Technology Commercialization Incubator is designed to help local small and mid-sized businesses commercialize space technology. NASA plans to contribute $1.2 million over three years to the project. The University of Houston provides the commercialization and research expertise of its science, business and engineering faculties. In addition, UH houses the incubator facilities.

"This is a major step in forming a relationship among the university, government and industry and carries out an important part of UH's mission. We will have a significant impact in Houston," said Arthur Vailas, UH vice president for research and vice provost for graduate studies.

NASA has developed tens-of-thousands of cutting edge technologies in its quest to explore space, many with the potential to be applied to Earth-based problems. Unfortunately, the private sector often does not know about them or lacks the know-how to modify space technology for terrestrial applications.

"The business technology incubator is an important tool NASA can use to promote commercially viable uses of publicly developed technology," said Hank Davis, director of JSC's Technology Transfer and Commercialization Office. "NASA-patented technology can be licensed by entrepreneurs who, with the help of the business incubator, can bring to market new commercial products.

"The University of Houston provides a vital element by analyzing the commercial market, helping develop business plans and locating venture capital, without which many start-up companies could not succeed," Davis said.

The university brings two distinct strengths vital to promoting small business use of NASA advanced technologies: top scientists to develop technologies for private sector use and a renown business faculty to help target commercialization opportunities.

UH researchers along with NASA and private sector experts will first review NASA technologies to identify those that match faculty expertise and have market potential. Then UH faculty will submit proposals to develop and refine the technologies for commercial use. As UH faculty members develop a space technology, the search begins for businesses that may be interested in partnering with UH to commercialize the technology. Because building the business around a technology often becomes the most difficult part of commercialization, the UH College of Business Administration's Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation helps the company form a business plan and assists with marketing and financing required for implementation.

A recent study by the National Business Incubation Association estimated that every dollar invested in an incubator returns nearly five dollars to the local economy, particularly in diversifying the industrial base.


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