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UH to use $2.4M grant to develop and advance energy, marine, other blue economy technologies

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The University of Hawaiʻi was awarded $2.4 million from a U.S. Navy research agency that will be used to develop and advance energy, marine and other blue economy technologies and opportunities aimed at strengthening the state’s economy and workforce.

Photo courtesy of the University of Hawaiʻi.

The grant from the Office of Naval Research will also help UH provide cross-disciplinary learning opportunities and give students a chance to participate in hands-on projects and entrepreneurial training.

“We’re grateful to the Office of Naval Research for this unique opportunity to collectively develop and commercialize scalable technologies at UH, while expanding Hawaiʻi’s blue economy innovation and entrepreneurship pathways and building workforce capacity,” said Vassilis L. Syrmos, UH vice president of research and innovation, in a press release. “Through these targeted initiatives, we will be able to collaboratively identify, develop and translate our world-class research into impact-driven ventures to help diversify and stimulate our state’s economy.”

UH will launch three new programs this year with the grant funds — Hacking4X, Patents2Products and Faculty Fellows — which will be operated by the UH Office of Innovation and Commercialization

“We developed these highly immersive and experiential training programs to facilitate the transformation of ideas to impact,” said Rebecca Chung, one of the grant’s principal investigators and Office of Innovation and Commercialization technology licensing officer and innovation programs associate director, in the press release. “These programs will prepare researchers to extend their focus beyond the academic laboratory environment. We want to increase the capacity for innovation and accelerate the economic and societal benefits of technological developments.”


The university is partnering with the University of Alaska Fairbanks and the University of Rhode Island for the initiative.

Hacking4X, or H4X

This semester-long, sprint-like design program is launching this month and will teach students to work through one iteration of the product design process. Students will learn about and go through the Lean Startup methodology, with an emphasis on the customer discovery process. At the end of the program, project teams will showcase their work during a pitch competition at a Tri-State Innovation Showcase.

Each year, the H4X program will follow a central theme that reflects health and marine challenges within Hawaiʻi. The spring 2023 program will focus on Hacking4Environment, with Hacking4Health planned for spring 2024.



This is a year-long funded fellowship opportunity that will launch this fall. Available to doctoral candidates and postdoctoral researchers, Patents2Products fellows will translate innovative ideas into marketable solutions by building necessary skills to progress proof-of-concept prototypes in the lab to minimum viable products toward commercialization. Selected participants will broaden their innovation and entrepreneurial skill sets through experiential training workshops to support the assessment of commercial landscapes around respective technologies under development, while supporting product and business development efforts to further advance the technology readiness level.

Applications for the program will open this spring.

The Office of Innovation and Commercialization is seeking program partners, including UH-affiliated technology companies or faculty research labs with UH intellectual property, who would value support from Patents2Products fellows. An informational webinar for potential program partners is scheduled for 9 a.m. Jan. 18. To register, click here. (http://bit.ly/3WCwjWm)


Faculty Fellows

This semester-long program focuses on enhancing faculty involvement in innovation and entrepreneurship and establishing an active, collaborative network of colleagues motivated to weave entrepreneurship principles into their teaching and research curriculum. Piloting this summer, participating faculty will undergo training in Lean Startup methodologies and integrate techniques directly into their courses at the end of the program.

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