Innovation Inside and Out E15: Doug Hockstad – Associate Vice President at Tech Launch Arizona

Jeff welcomes guest Doug Hockstad, Associate Vice President of Tech Launch Arizona (TLA), to discuss the University of Arizona tech commercialization ecosystem. As the identifier, nurturer, and champion of hundreds of tech transfer ventures, TLA is at the center of innovation, making a significant impact in Arizona and beyond.

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Jeff welcomes guest Doug Hockstad, Associate Vice President of Tech Launch Arizona (TLA), to discuss the University of Arizona tech commercialization ecosystem. As the identifier, nurturer, and champion of hundreds of tech transfer ventures, TLA is at the center of innovation, making a significant impact in Arizona and beyond.


Doug was raised in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (making him a Yooper) and attended college at the Univ ofMichigan where he earned his degree in Computer Engineering. He has spent time in cities across the US, but mostly stayed in Ann Arbor, MI. before moving to Tucson 10 years ago. An avid motorcyclist, and relatively new grandpa, Doug is married and has raised three great kids, two of whom live here in Tucson (one finishing her undergrad at UA), and one who works at Univ of New Mexico.

Doug is an accomplished professional with extensive experience in technology transfer, strategic planning, and relationship management. Over his career spanning more than 30 years, Doug has demonstrated his expertise in supporting customers, negotiating license agreements, building entrepreneurial ecosystems, and driving policy changes. He began his career as a customer-focused implementation specialist in the software world, and worked in nearly all aspects of running a software company (except HR and F&A). He joined a startup out of Israel in the late 90’s, helping to grow its mid-west presence. In an unexpected twist of fate, in the early 2000’s, he was given the opportunity to return to his alma mater (University of Michigan) to build a software licensing program within its tech transfer office. After over a decade at Michigan, Doug moved to Tucson to help relaunch commercialization at UA.

The University of Arizona is a top research institution in the US with over $800M in research expenditures. Prior to 2012, IP commercialization was not a strong focus of the institution, but in 2012 leadership made the decision to elevate and support this in a way reflective of its research stature. TLA, launched in the fall of 2012, was the result of that decision. Doug joined TLA in early 2013 as the director of IP and licensing, spearheading the restructuring of the technology licensing team, creating startup support programs, and building community outreach and ecosystem development efforts. Doug was promoted to lead the office in 2018 with the retirement of the previous leader, David Allen. As the Associate Vice President of Tech Launch Arizona, he has been instrumental in the successful commercialization of UA innovations, leading the TLA management team, fostering relationships with university leadership and external supporters, and advancing commercialization initiatives.

UA is making incredible discoveries every day. We are the office lucky enough to be working with these remarkable researchers and staff. UA’s breadth of research covers everything from new medications and medical devices to quantum discoveries and new software. Just to name a couple of examples: one of our startups, Reglagene, is
working on cancer therapeutics that will penetrate the blood-brain barrier. Another startup, Carbenium Tec, is working on a grid-scale organic and green battery. Finally, not everything is a startup, and one of our biggest successes has been a tri-focal interocular lens developed by Jim Schwiegerling, a professor of optical sciences who just passed this year. His innovation has been implanted in millions of eyes and improved the lives of people around the world.

Innovation is at the core of what we do every day – we’re surrounded by it and it pervades essentially every moment of our work. It’s why TLA exists. Because of that, we can’t help but have it affect our approach. We appreciate that every person, regardless of role, brings a unique expertise, which we encourage them to exercise/bring to the table so everyone has the opportunity to propose ideas, stand out, and lead. All ideas are
entertained, but we also are data driven – we ask that people set goals and prove things out before we go in full tilt.

We’ve had many successes over time. One of the most recent is related to acknowledging our inventive faculty-making sure they feel recognized for their efforts, and others in the university see that as well. We created a “patent medallion” program in which we gave every inventor of an issued patent a “patent coin” with their name
and patent info on it. We are right now planning a new program to engage faculty as “ambassadors” for TLA…we’ll see how that goes. We are continually trying new things, with hopes of increasing engagement with faculty/staff, or improving the culture of our office, etc. · We have a great, open culture and everyone gets along – we’re kind of like
an extended family. Last year we had a guest speaker who emphasized the importance of expressing gratitude and how it affects us physically, mentally and emotionally. We tried spinning that up into a program to help people express gratitude to one another. And while it worked and we had some response, it took constant inviting and asking people to engage – it never took on a life of its own or gained sustainable momentum, so while the intention was right, we have let that one go quiet, maybe we’ll reinvigorate it some day in a new form. We learned that it’s a good idea, we just need to do it differently.

We look primarily to our staff to continually innovate and improve both their roles and the culture. We also look to other exemplary tech transfer offices around the country to learn from their experiences. As I mentioned above, one new program we’re building to launch next FY is the Faculty Fellows program. Another program we’re working
on and will also launch next year is a focus on “social” innovation. That means a lot of different things to different people, but we’re working on that now, defining what it means to us, and how we can support employees at UA that are interested in social innovation. New things we’re trying: Social Innovation campaign. Innovation Fellows program. “Innovation Fueled By Arizona” logo program for partners.

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OOROO measures success by doing right by their customers. It’s all about “relationships, not transactions,” with a focus on keeping their customers safer than when they came in. Ethical behavior is at the core of everything they do—who and how they hire, how they interact with their team members, how they contribute to the community, and how they take care of their customers.

Jeff was born in Brooklyn NY and raised in South Jersey. He graduated from Brandeis University and NYU’s Stern School of Business and is a CPA.

He has served on several community boards and committees including Eller School of Management and the Lundgren School of Retailing and Consumer Sciences also at the University of Arizona, Desert Angels (angel investment group), Tucson Police Foundation, and United Way of Southern Arizona. Jeff is now a proud husband and father of three great kids. 

His career thus far has included launching ventures in energy-efficient, lighting, environmentally safe cleaning products, and home services (a precursor to Angie’s List). He is the former CEO of a 90-store, multi-state automotive chain and the founder and CEO of OOROO Auto, where he works to revolutionize the consumer experience in automotive services.

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