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The University of Arizona Center for Innovation, the University’s business startup service that mentors those involved in science and technology ventures, will be launching a new center in Oro Valley later this fall: the UA Center for Innovation at Oro Valley. Alongside the development of the new center, they are partnering with the Bioindustry Organization of Southern Arizona to launch a competition to choose one startup that will get a fully sponsored one-year incubation program at the new center.

At 4,000 square feet, UA Center for Innovation at Oro Valley will provide life sciences startups with mentorship programs and laboratories for conducting research and developing their businesses. According to Eric Smith, executive director for UACI, these spaces are sparse throughout southern Arizona and tend to be quite expensive.

To meet the needs of the local life sciences industry, UA Center for Innovation at Oro Valley will provide necessary physical storage, equipment and laboratory assistance. Additionally, a science advisory council will both help to determine which businesses will be using the incubator and provide support after admission.

“The goal for the incubator in Oro Valley from the space to the programming, is to support these startup companies with that same continuum of education and activities, with that same access to our mentors and subject matter experts and staff, now with a heavy focus on what biotech companies need to succeed,” Smith said.

For the competition, called the UACI Sponsored Launch Fueled by BIOSA, businesses must fill out an application which is then judged by a team selected by BIOSA. The winner of the competition, which will be announced on November 2, will have their fees and space fully covered for a year at the UA Center for Innovation at Oro Valley. The winning startup will be the very first company admitted into the incubator.

BIOSA has pledged $10,000 to help cover the costs of a company moving into the incubator. Additionally, a $5,000 cash prize from BIOSA will be awarded to the winning startup.

“BIOSA’s desire and my desire is to have more and more life science companies here and supporting them financially at the early stages is hugely important,” said Nina Ossanna, chair for BIOSA and one of original 10 people involved in starting the Oro Valley incubator.

UACI, which already serves a wide variety of life science startups, chose to partner with BIOSA on the development of the UA Center for Innovation at Oro Valley and the competition because of their vast connections and respected reputation in the biosciences industry.

Aside from wanting to foster success in the life sciences industry in Tucson and southern Arizona, Smith explained he has three major goals for this program.

“The first is to be able to provide an opportunity for a life science-based company to come into this new incubator, take advantage of the programming and the space, at no cost to them for this first year,” Smith said.

The second goal Smith pointed out is to shed light on the innovative capability of southern Arizona and Oro Valley in the area of life sciences.

Third, Smith hopes to attract companies from outside of the region to land here and collaborate with other life science companies within the incubator.

The university, UACI and BIOSA all have mutually beneficial relationships, and Ossanna attributes that to much of the success of the local life science industry.

“We have a great life sciences community because we connect the community with the university and the university is a real pillar for innovation, resources, expertise, and you’ll notice any strong bioindustry hub has a strong university associated with it,” Ossanna said. “So, that's why in Tucson we’re lucky — we have a robust life sciences business community but we also have that necessary university that helps feed it.”

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