Cherukuri provides update on Office of Innovation

A drone view of Rice University's campus.

Rice Vice President for Innovation Paul Cherukuri shared the following update on the Office of Innovation in a recent email to the university community:

Dear colleagues,

I wanted to give you an update on some of the new and exciting resources we’re creating for you through the Office of Innovation — Rice’s newly formed, universitywide organization established to empower faculty to develop revolutionary ideas, push intellectual boundaries and create breakthrough technology for the betterment of the world.

To achieve these goals, we started by listening to you, the faculty, through numerous one-on-one discussions, meetings with chairs and deans as well as other key stakeholders interested in growing Rice’s innovation enterprise. We are in the process of conducting faculty surveys within each school to learn what you think of when you hear “innovation” and what we can specifically do for you. Our first survey was launched within the George R. Brown School of Engineering, and we will be continuing these surveys this month with the remaining schools to get a comprehensive view of faculty needs for innovation across campus. Keep an eye on your inbox for those surveys!

Based on initial conversations over the last six months, we have focused our efforts on developing a few key resources and programs for faculty:

  1. NSF ENERGY TRANSITION ENGINE ($160 million proposal). The Office of Innovation, working with key faculty in the School of Engineering and in collaboration with the Greater Houston Partnership, assembled a powerhouse coalition of research universities and energy companies to develop a $160 million National Science Foundation proposal aimed at rapidly translating net-zero technology from universities into scalable technology.

Why it matters: If awarded, this will provide Rice faculty with funding, facilities and partnerships with the energy industry to accelerate transition of clean tech inventions from your labs into the market.

  1. RICE NEXUS. We are proud to announce the Nexus — a new Rice facility initially located in the Ion for prototyping and scale-up of cutting-edge technologies invented by Rice faculty. Finalization of the details of the Nexus capabilities, funding and resources will be defined by what we learn from you in the surveys. Construction is already underway, and the facility is slated to open in summer 2023.

Why it matters: The Nexus will contain workspaces, equipment and cutting-edge tools along with leading technical experts and business advisers to help you design, invent and deploy your technology into the real world.

  1. RICE STARTUPS. We are also providing incubator space for early-stage Rice startups in the Ion. Two Rice faculty-created startups have already moved into the Ion —- Motif (faculty founder Professor Jacob Robinson) and Synopic (faculty founder Professor Ashok Veeraraghavan). And many more on the way!

Why it matters: A low-cost, near-campus incubator in the Ion provides a clear glide path for transitioning inventions from your lab into the market. If you’re interested in spinning out a company into the Ion, let us know.

  1. ASSISTANT VICE PRESIDENT OF COMMERCIALIZATION. The Office of Innovation is hiring an AVPC who will work hand-in-hand with the AVP of Technology Transfer in the Office of Research to ensure a smooth, rapid transition of patented inventions from research to innovation through marketing of your technology and rapid licensing to Rice startups or established companies.

Why it matters: Rice is already an elite research institution — our goal in creating this position is to make Rice the go-to name for both translational research and commercialization. We’re working diligently on making sure that your hard work has a clear trajectory and support to get to market. First mandate for the AVPC includes developing a repeatable, faculty-focused, guided process to creating and launching startups.

WHAT’S NEXT: We have a few more irons in the fire, including:

  • Texas Medical Center (TMC): We’re in active discussions with TMC leadership to see how Rice faculty and our medical device, digital health and biotech spinoffs can be a part of their stunning TMC Helix Campus and to better utilize TMC’s translational R&D capabilities (TMC Venture Fund, Biodesign). Stay tuned to learn more about this with our next quarterly update.

Any thoughts, comments, or questions? We would love to hear from you! You can reach us by emailing