LAWRENCE — University of Kansas alumnus Clay C. Blair III, of Olathe, has made a $100,000 gift for the KU Venture Fund. The university and KU Endowment established the fund to help startup companies move research discoveries from KU into the marketplace with the goal of sparking innovation in Kansas. This is the largest gift for the fund to date.
“Encouraging KU faculty to transition their ideas to their real-world economic conclusion is long overdue,” said Blair. “Faculty can and should be risk-taking entrepreneurs. Why not? Startups don’t have to take much money to see if it works. They and their university should benefit from their hard work.”
Blair, a real estate developer in Johnson County and owner of Clay Blair Services Corp., previously served as the first chair of the Kansas Bioscience Authority and as chair of the Kansas Board of Regents. He earned two degrees from KU — a bachelor’s in business administration in 1965 and a doctorate in higher education policy and administration in 1969. He also earned an MBA from Indiana University in 1966.
Julie Goonewardene, president of KU Innovation and Collaboration, and KU associate vice chancellor for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, expressed appreciation for Blair’s generosity.
“I am personally and professionally grateful to Clay for this gift,” Goonewardene said. “Gifts like his represent a win on every front. They provide much-needed early stage capital for KU startups, enabling them to become ready for traditional investment, provide support to our increasingly successful economic development and commercialization efforts, provide sustainability for the fund and the potential for a financial upside for the university. The fact that someone of Clay’s business acumen would support our philanthropic venture is gratifying.”
The mission of the KU Venture Fund is to provide financing and other assistance to enable KU startup companies to become investment-ready and competitive. This will create new products for the marketplace, additional revenue for the university and economic development for the region.
In 2013, KU Innovation and Collaboration became the new name of what had been known as the KU Center for Technology Commercialization. The new name signifies a greater emphasis on innovation and collaboration. Known as KUIC, it focuses on creating corporate partnerships, starting companies, licensing intellectual property and establishing research relationships with foundations. The ultimate goal is to bring KU innovation to the marketplace in ways that benefit people and change the world. KUIC provides essential capital to get KU startups off the ground before they are ready for traditional investment vehicles.
The gift counts toward Far Above: The Campaign for Kansas, the university’s $1.2 billion comprehensive fundraising campaign. Far Above seeks support to educate future leaders, advance medicine, accelerate discovery and drive economic growth to seize the opportunities of the future.
The campaign is managed by KU Endowment, the independent, nonprofit organization serving as the official fundraising and fund-management organization for KU. Founded in 1891, KU Endowment was the first foundation of its kind at a U.S. public university.