International Expert Leads New UH Innovation Commercialization Office into the Future

Buoyed by the University of Hawai‘i’s recent success with lawmakers to set aside restrictive statues that will now allow current and future innovation and commercialization efforts under the Hawai‘i Innovation Initiative to move forward, C. David Ai’s arrival to UH this March could not have come at better time. That’s because Ai, director of the Office of Innovation and Commercialization, as well as chief innovation officer of the University of Hawai‘i System, can truly set his sights on the management of intellectual property (IP) and UH-developed technology assets through his oversight of three inter-related entities under the aegis of the UH Office of the Vice President for Research and Innovation.

Ai heads the Office of Technology Transfer (formerly known as Office of Technology Transfer and Economic Development or OTTED), that develops, implements and manages UH’s IP and technology licensing functions, including the active solicitation of invention disclosures from researchers. Ai also leads UH Ventures, a new entity that is responsible for intellectual property and technology licensing, education and the development of commercial partnerships to help drive and stimulate opportunities for economic growth. He will also work closely with the Strategic Grants Development Office, a newly created office to assist and mentor UH faculty, students and post-docs, alumni to navigate the complex development and application process associated with private research funding, including large multi-investigator grants.

“I am thrilled to join the University of Hawai‘i System, and to help drive the innovation agenda with all the colleagues on 10 campuses and in research institutes under one umbrella,” Ai said. “Hawai‘i has a long and proud history of diversity, which is the most important ingredient of innovation—to observe the world from a unique angle. I look forward to this unique and exciting challenge.”

Ai came to the University of Hawai‘i from the City University of Hong Kong, where he served as director of knowledge transfer, leading the university’s IP commercialization operations for the past three and a half years—concurrently leading an intense push into China’s vast business and industrial world, while developing the innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem on campus.

From 2008 to 2014, Ai served as senior IP licensing associate and licensed patent attorney for the Office of Technology Licensing at Stanford University, where he shaped the university’s China strategy and spearheaded their technology transfer efforts into the country. While at Stanford, Ai also negotiated and drafted IP licenses, managed patent prosecution, marketed more than 300 inventions and served as liaison to the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center.

Additionally, he has more than 20 years of experience in various management and administrative positions within large corporations and venture companies such as vice president at NYSE-listed Varian Medical Systems and CEO at several startups, as well as chief advisor at Hitachi Corporate VC in the Silicon Valley.

Ai received his bachelor of science degree in psychology from National Taiwan University, master of science degree in computer science from Indiana University, master of business administration degree from Stanford University, and juris doctor degree from Santa Clara University. He is also a licensed patent attorney in California. “We are very pleased and fortunate to have a person with his impressive credentials, knowledge and experience to lead the University of Hawai‘i’s tech transfer and commercialization efforts into the future,” said UH Vice President for Research and Innovation Vassilis L. Syrmos. “In our push to become a leader of technology commercialization in the Asia-Pacific region, his stewardship of the Office of Innovation and Commercialization will be absolutely vital to that effort and to the success of the Hawai‘i Innovation Initiative.”