Inagural USTAR Confluence Sets Precedent for Future Conferences

The first annual USTAR Confluence, held Nov. 3-Nov. 4 at the James L. Sorenson Molecular Biotechnology building at the University of Utah, was a successful demonstration of the innovation and commercial potential of applied research while providing an informative two days to the academic and business communities. 

The format of the conference allowed for observation of presentations, networking and an opportunity to view posters from students at the undergraduate, graduate and post-doc levels.

“The first ever USTAR conference met the statutory requirement to the Legislature that we would review the entire portfolio on an annual basis,” said Ivy Estabrooke, USTAR executive director. “To have all of our teams in one place at the same time, actively observing and presenting their research and services was advantageous not only for USTAR Headquarters staff and the Governing Authority, but for the researchers. It’s important that we understand what’s happening at the Universities, but also that researchers are current on their peer’s projects, which opens doors for multi-disciplinary collaboration.”

Stacy Pierce, keynote speaker and principal engineering manager for Rockwell Collins, encouraged students and researchers at the University of Utah and at Utah State University to get to know each other.

“Try to think about how you can take two good ideas and make a great idea,” said Pierce. “That’s when true innovation can happen.”

All USTAR teams from Utah State University and the University of Utah presented the status of their research projects and commercialization potentials to industry experts, small business owners and the USTAR Governing Authority.  Additionally, over the course of the two day conference, USTAR outreach teams discussed commercialization services available to startups, spin-out companies and to entrepreneurs throughout the state.

The opening night reception on Nov. 3 featured a poster session with more than 78 graduate and post-doc students, allowing them the opportunity to share and discuss their work, as well as network with professors, other students and experts in their field.

In addition to providing detail on the status of current projects, Confluence introduced new opportunities for complimentary research in a variety of areas. Several common themes emerged as challenges facing research teams attempting to commercialize, proving there are opportunities for USTAR to develop strategies that will remove some roadblocks that many research teams face.

Initial planning is underway at USTAR Headquarters for the next Confluence, to be held in the fall of 2015 at the Sorenson Molecular Biotechnology building at the University of Utah. Updates and information will be posted on as plans solidify.