The top 25: Tony Armstrong, president and CEO of Indiana University Research and Technology Corporation
It should come as no surprise to find Tony Armstrong, president and CEO of Indiana University Research and Technology Corporation (IURTC) near the top of the inaugural GUV Powerlist after IURTC took home the award for Technology Transfer Unit of the Year at the GUV: Fusion conference in May.
Armstrong, also associate vice-president for engagement at Indiana University (IU), has held both positions since 2008, although he had already been with the university once before, serving as associate director of the IU Advanced Research and Technology Institute from 1997 to 2000.
When asked what brought Armstrong back to IU, he told GUV: “I really enjoy the tech-based economic development aspects of my role and the opportunity to work with talented faculty and staff at Indiana University to transform their research into products, services or treatments.”
During his tenure so far, Armstrong has not only overseen IURTC’s regular operations supporting technology transfer activities, but in 2017 also helped fundamentally restructure the organisation. IURTC had been in charge of commercialisation efforts at IU for the first 20 years of its existence but last year worked with IU’s office of the vice-president for research to move that personnel into the new innovation and commercialisation office, an internal department.
Far from taking that as an excuse to slow down, Armstrong and IURTC instead stepped up their game and announced the IU Philanthropic Venture Fund in February this year. The evergreen fund will provide early-stage capital to university-affiliated companies, securing the money through donations from alumni. The fund has received a $15m commitment from IU and has a $50m target, and it is such an impressive feat that its leader Teri Willey separately made it into this Powerlist.
Armstrong looks at the initiative as one of his greatest accomplishments to date, listing it alongside the fundraising of the Innovate Indiana Fund (IIF) as one of his proudest moments.
The $10m the IIF was launched in 2011 and counts 26 portfolio companies. While the fund is effectively fully committed it retains some capital for follow-on funding, enabling it to participate, for example, in a $75m funding round for drone technology producer PrecisionHawk in January this year.
The IIF was the first initiative of its kind in Indiana and has led Purdue University and University of Notre Dame to establish similar funds. Indeed, the success of the IIF was also a crucial factor in driving the launch of the IU Philanthropic Venture Fund.
IU has proven fertile ground for Armstrong’s dedication, which previously also led to the institution being listed as one of the top 100 worldwide universities granted US utility patents in the 2016 calendar – a report published in June last year just ahead of the restructuring.
Tony Armstrong is at the top of his game. IU can consider itself lucky he rejoined the university in 2008 and everything indicates that Armstrong will continue to be a true force in university venturing.