After 16 years at the University of Florida, David L. Day is retiring from the Office of Technology and Licensing (OTL). Day has been serving as the Director of the OTL since April 2001, and has been the Assistant Vice President for Technology Transfer for about five years.
The OTL is a department at UF that helps scientists and entrepreneurs get their technologies to the marketplace.
“What we do is work with the facility and staff when they invent something new to get their inventions into the hands of industry,” Day said. “We’re a bridge between the laboratories and the private companies.”
Day related their work back to Dr. Robert Cade’s invention of Gatorade in 1965. While the OTL was not around back then, many people worked alongside Dr. Cade to formulate, patent and market the Gatorade product. That’s exactly what the OTL does.
During his time as director, Day helped get over 1,200 inventions into the marketplace and started almost 200 new companies. When Day first started at the OTL, they were making ten or fifteen deals a year with investors. Last year, the OTL set a record by making 122 deals, which Day said has been his greatest achievement as director.
“What I love most is being a valuable part of getting these new technologies to the marketplace to try and make the world a better place,” Day said. “Without us, it wouldn’t happen sometimes.”
The University of Florida is the top-performing public institution at transferring its research to the marketplace, according to a study by the Milken Institute. This is precisely what drew Day to UF.
Born and raised in Alabama, Day earned his undergraduate degree at Auburn University and completed two graduate degrees from the University of Alabama. However, being the Director of the OTL at UF was Day’s dream job, and he was more than willing to leave Alabama for this position.
“The University of Florida is well-known for technology transfer, and this office has always been a trendsetter for licensing and startup companies,” Day said.
Gainesville is home to two incubators, the Florida Innovation Hub at UF and the Sid Martin Biotechnology Incubator. These incubators are laboratories where entrepreneurs go to grow their businesses. They have access to specialized equipment, plus an outstanding network of mentors, advisors and collaborators who will help their products graduate into the real world, Day explained.
As director, Day is responsible for these two incubators. The Sid Martin Biotechnology Incubator took top honors worldwide in April 2013, when it was named the 2013 Incubator of the Year by the National Business Incubation Association.
The Florida Innovation Hub was built approximately five years ago during Day’s time as director. The unique aspect of the Florida Innovation Hub is that it has two programs: a resident startup and an affiliate startup.
Compared to the Sid Martin Biotechnology Incubator, the Florida Innovation Hub is a mix of technologies. This incubator can help entrepreneurs in ideas that range from medical devices to student internet companies.
Since the development of the Florida Innovation Hub, Day and his team have been able build and strengthen the system of technology transfer.
Incoming Director of the OTL, Jim O’Connell, said that Day was responsible for putting Gainesville on the map in terms of technology transfer, and now they are recognized nationally in the top ten.
“I hope to continue his legacy,” O’Connell said. “He’s set the bar very high.”
O’Connell worked in technology transfer at the University of Miami before relocating to Gainesville, and has a broad background working in the industry and with startup companies.
While O’Connell hopes to continue building relationships with industry partners, he also wants to help UF reach their goal of having more than one billion dollars in research.
“The OTL has a key role in trying to establish and improve the relationship with people in the industry, and that works into the goal of the university to have more than a billion dollars in research,” O’Connell said.
Having known Day for seven years, O’Connell knows he has big shoes to fill as Director of the OTL, but he is confident in his ability to maintain and hopefully improve all the work Day has done over the past 16 years.
Since his retirement from UF, Day has accepted an appointment as Executive Director of the Southeastern BIO, a regional non-profit organization that fosters the growth of the life sciences industry in the Southeastern United States.
“It’s been a great run, and I’ve loved it,” Day said. “I love the University of Florida and all the people here. I will remain supportive in any way I can forever, but it’s my time to move on.”
by Catie Wegman