University of Hawaiʻi Appoints New Director

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The University of Hawaiʻi has appointed C. David Ai as director of Office of Innovation and Commercialization, as well as chief innovation officer of the UH System.

C. David Ai. Courtesy Photo

Ai’s appointment was approved on Aug. 24, and he is set to begin his official duties on March 15, 2018.

In his new role, Ai will be responsible for the management of intellectual property and UH-developed technology assets through his oversight of three inter-related offices. He will lead the Office of Technology Transfer (formerly known as Office of Technology Transfer and Economic Development), that will develop, implement and manage UH’s IP and technology licensing functions, including the active solicitation of invention disclosures from researchers.

Ai will also lead UH Ventures, a newly created office that will be responsible for intellectual property and technology licensing, education and the development of commercial partnerships to help drive and stimulate opportunities for economic growth. He will also work closely with the Strategic Grants Development Office, a newly created entity to assist and mentor UH faculty, students and post-docs, alumni to navigate the complex development and application process associated with private research funding, including large multi-investigator grants.


“I am thrilled to join the University of Hawaiʻi System, and to help drive the innovation agenda with all the colleagues on 10 campuses and in research institutes under one umbrella,” Ai said. “Hawaiʻi has a long and proud history of diversity, which is the most important ingredient of innovation – to observe the world from a unique angle. I look forward to this unique and exciting challenge.”

Previously, Ai served as director of knowledge transfer at the City University of Hong Kong where he lead the university’s IP commercialization operations for the past three and a half years — concurrently leading an intense push into China’s vast business and industrial world, while developing the innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem on campus.

From 2008 to 2014, Ai served as senior IP licensing associate and licensed patent attorney for the Office of Technology Licensing at Stanford University, where he shaped the university’s China strategy and spearheaded their technology transfer efforts into the country. While at Stanford, Ai also negotiated and drafted IP licenses, managed patent prosecution, marketed more than 300 inventions and served as liaison to the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center.


Ai also brings more than 20 years of experience in various management and administrative positions within large corporations and venture companies such as vice president at NYSE-listed Varian Medical Systems and CEO at several startups, as well as chief advisor at Hitachi Corporate VC in the Silicon Valley.

“We are very pleased and fortunate to have a person with the impressive credentials, knowledge and experience of David to lead the University of Hawai‘i’s tech transfer and commercialization efforts into the future,” said UH Vice President for Research and Innovation Vassilis L. Syrmos. “In our push to become a leader of technology commercialization in the Asia-Pacific region, his stewardship of the Office of Innovation and Commercialization will be absolutely vital to that effort and to the success of the Hawai‘i Innovation Initiative.”

Ai received his bachelor of science degree in psychology from National Taiwan University, master of science degree in computer science from Indiana University, master of business administration degree from Stanford University, and juris doctor degree from Santa Clara University. He is also a licensed patent attorney in California.


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