In March 2006, the Utah State Legislature passed Senate Bill 75 creating the Utah Science Technology and Research initiative (USTAR). This measure provided funding for strategic investments at the University of Utah and Utah State University to recruit world-class researchers and build state-of-the-art interdisciplinary research and development facilities and to form first-rate science, innovation, and commercialization teams across the State.
This initiative seeks to generate more technology-based start-up firms, higher paying jobs, and additional business activity leading to a state-wide expansion of the Utah's tax base.
USTAR is comprised of three program areas - Research Teams, Research Building Projects, and regional Technology Outreach.
Research Teams: The strategy is to attract catalyst-type research faculty from outside the state with a reputation for innovation and commercialization. In effect, USTAR seeks to bring “rainmakers” to the state’s two public research universities to work with our existing experts on bigger and more challenging efforts.
USTAR focus areas are based on existing university strengths and aligned with GOED’s economic clusters, addressing vast commercialization opportunities and strategic global markets by leveraging Utah’s industry strengths. These areas are:
- BioDevice and BioPharma
- Medical Imaging and Brain Medicine
- Digital Media
- Space Innovations
Research Buildings : At the heart of USTAR’s efforts to transform the state’s economy are the James L. Sorenson Molecular Biotechnology Building–a USTAR Innovation Center at the U of U and its sister facility–the USTAR BioInnovations Center at USU. These centers mark the beginning of a new era of interdisciplinary translational research, scientific discovery and technology commercialization.
The 110,000-square-foot USU USTAR BioInnovations building opened in January 2011, and houses a Biosafety Level 3+ laboratory to perform advanced research in veterinary diseases, applied nutrition and synthetic biomanufacturing. No other building in the State has that level of biosafety capability, and few in the Intermountain West match it. The building was awarded LEED Gold certification for sustainable design in October 2011. The building became the anchor of the USTAR BioInnovations Center which also includes an additional 33,000-square-foot building donated to USTAR as part of the matching funds required from the university to build the new USTAR building.
The 208,000-square-foot Sorenson building is the home of the Nano Institute and the Brain Institute which fosters neuroscience research in three areas: next generation neural interfaces, diagnostic neuroimaging and circuits of the brain. The centerpiece of the building are the core facilities including the nanofabrication facility with 18,000 square feet of cleanroom space, biobay, and a 5,300-square-foot microscopy and materials characterization suite, all of which put the U of U on even footing with the top nanotechnology research institutes worldwide. The building was dedicated in April, 2012 and sits at a crossroads, located almost hallway between the School of Medicine and a cluster of School of Engineering facilities.
Technology Outreach Program: USTAR's Technology Outreach Innovation Program (TOIP) is the engine to drive commercialization activities. TOIP's mission is to support the accomplishment of USTAR's financial, employment, and research objectives by lending experienced leadership, deep business understanding, and functional expertise to the most promising opportunities and focus areas. This includes working with entrepreneurs, emerging and established businesses, academic researchers, and other innovation economy stakeholders.
The program is led by directors deployed across Utah with a regional focus. Each director heads an Outreach Center located at one of the State's higher educational institutions.