Our Town: OV Chamber and UACI host life science startup competition | Tech Parks Arizona
   The University of Arizona

Our Town: OV Chamber and UACI host life science startup competition


The Oro Valley Chamber of Commerce is teaming up with the University of Arizona’s Center for Innovation to host a competition aimed at finding a life science startup company interested in joining UACI’s incubation program and relocating to the town. 

The winning company will receive a year of sponsored admission at UACI at Oro Valley where they can take advantage of the incubator’s facilities, resources and expert guidance to help with a successful product launch.

“We take startups through a continuum of education and activities,” said UACI executive director Eric Smith. “It’s a true roadmap that helps to guide our startup teams through where they need to go to achieve success be that product-market fit through customer validation, or investment, or revenue.” 

Smith said the purpose of this competition is to showcase UACI at Oro Valley’s program while involving local municipalities and corporations in economic development through startup creation. Because of the pandemic, the center had to be creative in kicking off its sponsored launch series. Hosting a competition with the Oro Valley Chamber was the perfect solution to the challenges presented during these times, said Smith. 

“The way this works is that we team up with a wonderful sponsor, such as the Oro Valley Chamber, to determine what we’re really looking to support,” Smith said. “In this case, the Oro Valley Chamber will select judges from the stakeholder community and we’ll get to take a look at these startups, have conversations with them and ultimately determine where we can provide the most support.” 

The Oro Valley Chamber is committing $10,000 to help fuel the competition and UACI’s sponsored launch efforts. Through an operating agreement with the Town of Oro Valley, the chamber receives $40,000 a year for its continued services to the community. Under the agreement, $5,000 has to be committed each year to support UACI in Oro Valley, said Oro Valley Chamber president and CEO Dave Perry. He said he views the monetary commitment as an investment into Oro Valley’s bioscience future. 

“In our agreement with the town, it very specifically says ‘We want the chamber to help sponsor a business plan contest,’” Perry said. “The money has been paid and we’re glad to do it. Our membership is wildly enthusiastic about the idea of the business community supporting a startup that can help us grow the economy.” 

Perry said the chamber is looking for life science startups that would be compatible and complementary with Roche Tissue Diagnostics—locally known as Ventana Medical Systems. The Swiss pharmaceutical company’s Oro Valley facility has created more than 1,600 jobs since joining the community in 2008, according to Perry.

“[Roche] is a world-class company doing amazing stuff with cancer detection, treatment and technology and companies want to be around them,” Perry said. “We want to find startups that would be able to use talent who might have businesses that would fit in with the Roche practices. We want to create a hub here and we think the incubator in this project is a way to begin that process.” 

UACI and the Oro Valley Chamber began accepting startup applications for the competition on March 5 and will close on April 2. The winning team is expected to be announced in early May, according to Smith. The executive director said he was unsure of how many startups have applied for the competition so far, but in previous contests, they would typically receive around 15 to 20 applications. 

“That may not seem like a large number, but it’s actually remarkable considering we already have 48 startups in the incubator,” Smith said. “In this one, I anticipate we’ll probably average that amount and we’ll probably uncover new startups that we were unaware of before, which is always a great side-benefit to doing programming like this.” 

Perry said the chamber plans to announce the winning startup during their virtual event called the Oro Valley Biosciences Spotlight in May. While COVID cases are dropping in Pima County, the organization and the university are hesitant to host an in-person event during the pandemic at this time, said Perry. 

UACI’s Oro Valley location opened in early December 2020, after breaking ground in September 2019. The incubator is located in Oro Valley’s Innovation Park, and features 4,000 feet of lab space that can house four startups. The building is specifically geared toward life science and biotechnology startups, including lab equipment like centrifuges, biosafety cabinets, ultrasonic cleaners and sanitizers. Beyond housing startups, the location can also serve as a “drop-in center” for any of UACI’s startups that need to do business in Oro Valley. 


For more information or if you’re a startup interested in downloading the application, check out techparks.arizona.edu/uaci-sponsored-launch-program-fueled-by-Oro-Valley-Chamber


Read The Original Tucson Local Media Article by Austin Counts

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