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University of Michigan Innovation Partnerships
University of Michigan Innovation Partnerships

Q&A With Ashwathi Iyer – 2023 Jessica Soulliere Outstanding Service Award Recipient


For her commitment to her coworkers and inventors, her hard work and her enthusiasm, Ashwathi Iyer is the 2023 recipient of the Innovation Partnerships’ Jessica Soulliere Outstanding Service Award. The award is named for our late colleague, Jessica Soulliere, who was a trusted and valued member of Innovation Partnerships with an exceptional work ethic and commitment to service.

We sat down with Ashwathi to discuss her role at Innovation Partnerships and how she felt when she received this award.

Let’s start with the basics, how long have you been at Innovation Partnerships?

I’ve been at Innovation Partnerships since February 2021. I started as a Physical Sciences Fellow before transitioning into my current role. 

What is your current role at the office?

My current role is Assistant Director of Software Licensing & Research Partnerships. My main focus is supporting the commercialization and/or dissemination of software and content research at U-M. My day-to-day work spans a lot of different aspects such as brainstorming research and funding strategy with faculty; working closely with the Ventures and Corporate Research Alliances teams to put together a research translation and commercialization gameplan; talking to companies interested in sponsoring research or licensing IP and, of course, license agreement negotiation. 

Tell us a little bit about your background prior to Innovation Partnerships.

I come from the world of research. I got my PhD in Physics, focusing on computational materials physics and chemistry, specifically for semiconductor devices. After my PhD, I worked in the semiconductor industry as a materials researcher. I decided to transition to technology transfer because I wanted a career that was more mission-driven and gave me the flexibility/opportunity to define the kind of impact I wanted to have. 

Between undergrad and grad school, I took a gap year to work at a clean energy social enterprise in India. This was a very formative experience and led to me thinking more critically about aligning my career choices with my values. 

What do you most enjoy about working at Innovation Partnerships?

Without a doubt, it’s the people and the culture. This is a truly unique and special team, where everyone is genuinely invested in each others’ professional and personal success. The team is also very collaborative, creative and helpful; not to mention the banter and “home-grown” extracurricular activities, which are beyond comparison! I think it’s rare to have co-workers who are accomplished, mission-driven and who also genuinely care about each other—I feel very lucky to be part of this group. 

What were the emotions you felt when you found out that you were selected for the JSOSA this year?

I was surprised  because I didn’t feel totally deserving of the award. At the same time, I felt touched by the fact that my coworkers nominated me. I didn’t know Jess personally, but know that she was a greatly loved and valued colleague, so I’m very honored to get an award that’s in her memory.