Maui Business

Maui TechOhana Returns for Innovation and Networking

July 17, 2018, 11:48 AM HST
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Dr. David Ai talks story with Maui TechOhana at Cohana. Courtesy photo.

Innovation and networking were on the agenda at the recent Maui TechOhana event presented by the Maui Economic Development Board and Hawaiʻi Technology Development Corporation.

More than 35 Maui small business owners and entrepreneurs attended to network and to listen to invited speaker, David Ai, Director, Office of Innovation and Commercialization and Chief Innovation Officer of the University of Hawaiʻi System.

“The TechOhana meetings are a great opportunity to share views and thoughts in an open forum,” said Gerry Smith, MEDB Director of Business Development. “The reason MEDB has these events is to offer presentations on relevant topics in business and technology, followed by the opportunity to talk with others with similar professional interests.”

The meeting was at Cohana, a co-working space providing premium amenities for freelancers and entrepreneurs at HTDC’s Maui Research and Technology Center in Kīhei.

Smith explained, “Having this event at a co-working space gives people who aren’t familiar with co-working a chance to see what co-working spaces are all about.”


Dr. Ai detailed how the University of Hawaiʻi plans to work with local constituents to promote innovation and entrepreneurship throughout the state. An international expert in management and business administration, Ai has more than 20 years of experience in various positions with large corporations and venture companies. In his UH position, he is responsible for the protection of intellectual property and UH-developed technology transfers and assets.


“I am thrilled to join the University of Hawaiʻi System, and to help drive the innovation agenda with colleagues on 10 campuses– placing the research institutes under one umbrella,” said Ai. “Hawaiʻi has a long and proud history of diversity, which is the most important ingredient of innovation.”

Dr. Ai, who previously was Director of Knowledge Transfer at the City University of Hong Kong leading the university’s IP commercialization operations, shared stories of his experiences in different cultures and what this means for Hawaiʻi businesses.

Pamela Norris, Co-founder of Ice Buddy Systems and winner of MEDB’s 2016 InnovateHer competition, attended and commented on the presentation which outlined Dr. Ai’s vision for his newly formed Departments within the UH system. “He brings a wealth of knowledge and broad practical experience to his position,” Norris said. “Ai’s vision is to upgrade the University’s ability to commercialize research results by students and faculty, in collaboration with community businesses. Businesses can apply for government grants jointly with a university faculty member who may be interested in the endeavor. Moreover, leaders in the community can offer opportunities to apply classroom knowledge to real life business challenges where they
partake in community solutions.”


Maui TechOhana at Cohana was supported by The County of Maui Mayor’s Office of Economic Development. More information on Maui TechOhana events is available online.

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