UW-Madison Taps Andy Richards to Lead Discovery to Product Program

After serving for seven months as interim director of Discovery to Product—a program that helps students, faculty, and staff at the University of Wisconsin-Madison turn ideas into companies—Andy Richards has dropped “interim” from his title.

On Tuesday, UW-Madison said it had selected Richards to lead the program, which is abbreviated as D2P. He officially started as the program’s director on Sunday, the school said.

“D2P, with the expertise of its mentors and its connections across campus and in the community, is in a great position to help innovators at UW–Madison navigate a course [and] take calculated risks,” Richards said in a news release.

Previously, Richards was chief of staff for UW-Madison’s vice chancellor for research and graduate education. That administrator’s office oversees entrepreneurship-focused programs and initiatives at the university, including D2P. Richards began working at the school in 2014.

UW-Madison launched D2P in 2013 in conjunction with the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF), an independent organization that manages patents and licensing of intellectual property for the university. The two organizations each put forth $1.6 million to create the program, money that has been used for overhead costs and to pay the salaries of D2P staff.

Not long after UW-Madison and WARF announced they were creating the new program, they hired John Biondi to serve as director of D2P. He stepped down from that position last August, at which time Richards became the program’s interim director.

In January, UW-Madison announced three finalists for the top job at D2P. The school ultimately picked Richards over two candidates who are well known in Madison’s healthcare and tech communities: Propagate Health founder Laura Strong and Dan Blake, director of investor relations at HealthX Ventures.

D2P is housed at @1403, an on-campus building that three years ago was rebranded as a hub for entrepreneurs. The startups that have formed with D2P’s help include Stem Pharm, Xemex, and Spectrom, which New York-based MakerBot acquired for an undisclosed sum in 2015.

In December, Richards gave a presentation in which he detailed D2P’s plans to focus more on coordinating entrepreneurship-related activities across the university.

Over the past several years, D2P has drawn from a $2.4 million “Igniter” fund to invest in startups launched during the course of the program. Richards said in December that D2P expected to spend what remains of the Igniter fund by June 2018.

Last summer, WARF managing director Erik Iverson announced that the tech transfer office planned to invest $60 million in startups affiliated with UW-Madison by 2025. Iverson said in Tuesday’s news release that D2P plays a “critically important role in advancing UW–Madison’s research, industry relationships, and entrepreneurship.”

“At WARF, we have been proud to support D2P in its efforts to help UW–Madison strengthen its entrepreneurial resources and ecosystem, and to assist campus innovators in their pursuit of startup company opportunities as they move their inventions toward commercial success,” Iverson said.

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