Former UW Electrical Engineering Chair named Vice Provost for Innovation

Story by Clare LaFond
Photo & video by Conrado Tapado

Vikram Jandhyala believes in the power of entrepreneurship.

“It takes courage, determination and a belief in yourself to pursue a dream, to overcome obstacles, and to nurture ideas to fruition,” he said. And he sees UW innovators – faculty, students, and research staff – as key leaders in taking these ideas to impact.

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Vikram Jandhyala, UW Vice Provost for Innovation. Photo by Conrado Tapado.

Vikram Jandhyala,
UW Vice Provost for Innovation

Beginning July 1, Jandhyala, professor and former chair of Electrical Engineering, will become UW Vice Provost for Innovation, a newly-created post to lead entrepreneurial efforts across campus and to more fully integrate innovation into the educational mission of the University. A big part of his focus, he said, will be on the student entrepreneurial experience at UW, as more and more students embrace their areas of interest while working on innovations with market potential.

“This is really a continuation of many other efforts underway at our UW campuses to encourage entrepreneurship across units, schools and colleges,” Jandhyala explained. “I’m especially excited to lead this collaborative effort at a time when we are poised to do more now for UW students than ever before. It’s an opportunity to disseminate entrepreneurship into every major field of study and to integrate innovation and entrepreneurship into our educational mission.”

The opportunity arose when UW Vice Provost for Commercialization Linden Rhoads, who has led the UW Center for Commercialization (C4C) for more than five years, announced that she would return to the private sector. One of her first undertakings at UW was to re-brand what was formerly the UW Office of Technology Transfer to the more compelling and collaborative UW Center for Commercialization. Under her leadership, C4C doubled the number of patents filed per year and the number of UW technology start-ups launched annually, with a record 17 start-ups in FY13 that resulted in a ranking of #3 in the nation for university spin-out companies. This year, C4C hopes to break that record with 18 new spin-out companies that will be announced at its July 29 annual UW Start-Up Celebration.

C4C opened the UW’s first incubator two years ago, and helped establish the W Fund, a private $20M venture fund that invests in Washington State research institution spin-outs. Rhoads will remain General Manager of the W Fund.
“I am an entrepreneur at heart,” Rhoads said. “I thrive on the product development and market challenges of the start-up. An alumna of the UW, who loves this place, I agreed to lead technology transfer and commercialization efforts, in part, to demonstrate that there had been untapped spin-out potential among the world-class researchers at the UW.”

Rhoads, a serial entrepreneur who spearheaded tremendous engagement with the regional business and investor community, made the UW a national leader in technology commercialization. The UW ranked #1 in the country for the number of licensing agreements signed and the number of individual technologies under license. Today, UW spin-outs have stronger management teams and better business plans. “They’re more mature at launch, and they are more likely to garner early-stage funding,” she said.

“While we’ve made great strides with our Commercialization Postdoctoral Fellowships and the many student opportunities within C4C, my emphasis has been more external-facing — to pull talent and resources into the university community to support our researchers. But with a prominent faculty entrepreneur leading new initiatives, I think there’s now opportunity for the emphasis to shift,” she said.

Rhoads will remain as Executive Director for Commercialization at UW through 2014 and will continue to be a guiding presence going forward as Jandhyala takes on his new role.

Jandhyala, together with his students, founded Physware (Nimbic) in 2006, a venture-backed, cloud-based simulation software company that was acquired by Mentor Graphics in 2014. One of the inaugural C4C entrepreneurial faculty fellows in 2011, Jandhyala served as chair of the department of Electrical Engineering from 2011 until earlier this year. He joined the UW faculty in 2000 after spending a few years in the electronic design software industry, and he led Electrical Engineering’s professional masters program through early growth in 2009 and 2010. He is the founding UW director of the UW-PNNL Northwest Institute for Advanced Computing (NIAC) and heads the Applied Computational Engineering (ACE) lab. His current interests include social and organizational networks, computational science and big data, electronic design automation, technology entrepreneurship, and educational innovation.

“As we continue to extend our external entrepreneurial engagements, we are seeing potential synergies and efficiencies across the UW,” he said. “I am thrilled to lead this effort on behalf of our top-ranked research university – a truly world-class institution that is focused on driving innovation, entrepreneurialism, and commercialization.”