Innovation and Commercialization Initiative

The mission of the Office of Innovation and Commercialization (OIC) is to:

  • Bridge connections and build partnerships between the University of Hawai‘i (UH), the community and the world.
  • Strategically advance discoveries.
  • Inspire innovators and entrepreneurs to create new opportunities for Hawai‘i.

To advance this mission and build on past efforts, OIC is implementing a strategy founded on collaborative partnerships with industry, government and community that integrates programs focusing on:

  1. “Innovation / Idea Generation” from the world-class research by our faculty, staff and students and through challenge-based programs,
  2. “Commercialization” through milestone-based programs combined with wrap-around support to develop UH technologies and startups with a strong foundation and path forward that are ready to attract licensees, take advantage of the innovation and entrepreneurship (IE) ecosystem’s many resources, attract more investment, and drive societal and economic impact. These programs are open to all campuses across the University of Hawai‘i System.


Innovation/Idea Generation: UH World-Class Research and Challenge-based programs

Hawai‘i’s tremendous geographic diversity that encompasses erupting volcanoes, frozen summits, tropical rain forests and the deep ocean is reflected in its highly regarded research and academic enterprise that brings in more than $450 million in annual extramural funds to support world-renowned research programs in astronomy, medicine, oceanography, genetics, biosciences, energy and tropical agriculture and growing programs in health sciences and health disparities, agri/aquaculture, computer science and engineering, and Pacific engagement. OIC will continue to identify and protect the world-class research of UH faculty, staff and students (“UH technologies”).

As part of the Innovation / Idea Generation program, OIC launched Challenge-based programs that involve working with partners, including Hawaiian Electric, Hawaiian Telcom, National Security Innovation Network (NSIN) and Hawai‘i Tech Bridge, to identify local and global challenges and then engaging researchers, students, and the community to develop innovative solutions (e.g. see Innovation Impact Challenge program, Hacking for Defense, X-Force). By working with our strategic partners, OIC introduces researchers and startups to end-users and potential customers at the beginning of the process so that researchers and startups build relationships to ensure that the resulting technologies and ventures are tailored to needs of the end-user (i.e., product-market fit). This also provides researchers and startups with experience tackling real-world problems and opportunities for internships and demo projects with our partners throughout the initiative.

Commercialization: Milestone-based programs + Wrap-around support and funds

Next, UH’s world-class research and discoveries and the real-life technology solutions to local and global challenges can then benefit from milestone-based programming and wrap-around support and resources offered at UH and the greater ecosystem to facilitate their transition from lab to market as part of the Commercialization Program.

As part of the milestone-based program, a plan will be developed for each technology/venture, which may include technology assessments, commercialization plan development, participation in local and national innovation and entrepreneurship programs, submission of proposals for funding opportunities with federal agencies, and building an appropriate team.

Wrap-around support includes funding support and hands-on guidance from an Innovation and Entrepreneurship (IE) Expert team. UH funding support intends to add value to:

  1. UH technologies with the potential to be commercialized by supporting validation studies, prototype developments or proof-of-concept demonstrations to attract potential licensees and industry interest, and
  2. UH startups exploring a commercialization pathway that includes participation in a SBIR, I-Corps and/or other similar programs.

Learn more about the Commercialization Program and how to apply