Mote recruits Chief Innovation Officer to translate science for economic impact

Mote Marine Laboratory is excited to announce that Dr. Alex Beavers has accepted the position of Chief Innovation Officer, a new role dedicated to transitioning Mote research into commercial applications that are ocean-friendly and produce economic benefits both locally and globally.

Dr. Beavers, who officially joined Mote’s staff on Jan. 1, will apply his 40 years’ experience as a high-technology executive and entrepreneur — most recently at SRI (Stanford Research Institute) in Menlo Park, California — to help create new ventures, license agreements, products and services that are based on the inventions, discoveries, and intellectual property created at Mote. Scientists at Mote, an independent nonprofit institution founded 64 years ago, have produced many intellectual property products including patents ranging from sustainable fish-farming technologies to potential new sources of medicines to red tide monitoring and mitigation tools.

“Mote’s mission is compelling — improving the conservation and sustainable use of marine resources — and I’m happy to be part of the innovation phase by helping move Mote inventions and discoveries into business activities that have a beneficial economic impact for the economy at large,” Dr. Beavers said.

He continued: “There is a lot of potential for new economic innovations being derived from research and development here at Mote,” Dr. Beavers said. "Just one example is Mote’s research in recirculating systems for aquaculture, or fish farming. About 50 percent of global seafood production now comes from aquaculture and most of that is from Asian sources. Mote has the opportunity to bring a high tech, clean and sustainable approach to a multi-billion dollar aquaculture industry using its technology know-how, marine science expertise and practical inventions. The 200-acre Mote Aquaculture Research Park in eastern Sarasota County has, for several years, been a test bed for new technology and sustainable methods for recirculating fish-farming technologies that can raise seafood and sea vegetables while recycling most or all of the water.”

“Mote also has been a pioneer in identifying alternative proteins and constituents for fish feed, which is also a multi-billion-dollar industry that is part of the aquaculture supply chain. Most of the feed stock for aquaculture today consists of protein from wild-caught fish species which makes it part of the overfishing problem. The market is ready for a disruption in terms of fish meal protein sources and Mote is in a good position to be part of that change.”

Through discussions with Mote President & CEO Dr. Michael P. Crosby over the past year, Dr. Beavers has begun conceptualizing the market need and commercialization potential for several Mote projects. In addition to fish farming, another focus is Mote’s long-term research on cancer-fighting compounds originally derived from shark immune systems. Mote scientists are working not only to describe and understand the tumor-fighting activity they discovered through basic lab studies of these compounds; they also seek to isolate and ultimately learn to synthesize the “active ingredients” for advanced testing, without needing to harvest from the ocean. They’re working strategically to surmount some of the key challenges that face many promising, natural sources of potential new therapies. Dr. Beavers will complement such targeted research efforts with equally targeted market exploration.

“A significant portion of Mote’s vision for the future focuses on translating and transferring our discoveries in science and technology, not only to enhance conservation and sustainable use of our marine resources, but to also benefit society and stimulate our regional economy,” said Mote President & CEO Dr. Michael P. Crosby. “Dr. Beavers is a proven entrepreneurial leader in moving intellectual property through the innovation process to commercialization, and he will be dedicated to that goal at Mote.”

Dr. Crosby continued: “Our scientists have already forged some fruitful relationships with the business community, and they are already applying a number of their innovations to benefit society — during the serious red tide bloom that began in 2017 and has continued through the past year, our online Beach Conditions Reporting System was viewed more than three million times by the public around the world, and we’ve recently upgraded our optical phytoplankton discriminator technology for much higher-resolution detection of red tide. In addition, we’ve recently announced our new Red Tide Institute dedicated to developing and testing a variety of red tide mitigation technologies — such as our patented ozone system. Dr. Beavers will complement all of our scientists’ basic and applied research programs by continually monitoring for new business opportunities and making the connections needed to amplify our broader positive impacts.”

Reporting directly to Dr. Crosby, Dr. Beavers aims to grow Mote’s economic impact — currently estimated to be $90 million in its region — as part of a Lab-wide expansion. Mote leaders are currently working for the rebirth of the public Mote Aquarium at a mainland nexus site for Sarasota and Manatee counties. This will clear space for Mote’s primary research campus on City Island, Sarasota, to evolve into an International Marine Science, Technology, & Innovation Park, where an expansion of intellectual property created by Mote scientists and colleagues from around the world will serve as the “blue economy” foundation for a Silicon Valley of marine science and technology in the region.

Dr. Beavers previously led the commercialization of advanced electronics, automation systems, advanced materials, medical devices and clean technologies for SRI (Stanford Research Institute). He was also CEO and Chairman of the Board of Averatek Corporation, an SRI spin-out venture that serves the printed circuit industry with fine-line, three-dimensional metallization products and services. Prior to SRI, Dr. Beavers was founding CEO of Artificial Muscle, Inc., which licensed SRI electro-active polymer technology and was acquired by Bayer AG. Before that, he was CEO of Thomson Industries, a global linear motion systems company based in New York that was eventually acquired by Danaher Corporation. His prior positions included CEO of ITP Systems, a factory floor systems integration company, CEO of Applicon, Inc., one of the original computer aided design systems companies, CEO of Schlumberger Automation Systems Asia, and General Manager of General Electric Vision Systems Business, and Managing Partner of Supply Chain Management Consulting at PwC. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Vanderbilt University and master’s degree and doctorate from the University of Houston, all in Electrical Engineering, and earned his Master of Business Administration from Boston University.