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New Commercialization Efforts Launched by Universities, Industry Partners

February 27, 2014

University-focused initiatives that help bring new technologies and products to market help drive regional economic development and encourage an entrepreneurial culture on campuses. To create stronger connections with the private sector, eliminate barriers between universities and the innovation community, and better support industry needs, some higher education institutions are honing in on entrepreneurship and commercialization activities.

A November report from the Brookings Institution on university technology transfer delves into economic factors that have led to the organic emergence of a new model for technology transfer, including pressure on universities to be more responsive to market forces. This “nurturing startups model” incentivizes faculty to partner with local business incubators and capital investors to commercialize their research and technologies, the author says. The report also finds that only a few universities have been able to generate significant revenue from technology transfer activities and concludes with recommendations for government to better support these efforts.

At the same time, the latest licensing activity survey from the Association of University Technology Managers (AUTM) pointed to the direct economic impact of technology transfer activities, including the creation of local, high-quality jobs. The 2012 survey reported a significant increase (5.1 percent) in the number of research-based startups formed compared to the previous year. Moreover, about two-thirds of the new companies were located in the same state as the university or hospital from which they licensed their core technology.

SSTI’s latest Trends in TBED report featured a number of commercialization efforts launched in 2013, such as university-based funds to support ideas from faculty, staff and alumni. So far, 2014 also has proven active in this area with the announcement of several new initiatives to support university technology startups. Some examples are highlighted below:

  • A $1 million grant from the Maricopa County Industrial Development Authority will fund early stage manufacturing companies coming out of Arizona State University accelerator programs. The venture capital fund will operate as an evergreen fund and take equity positions in companies ranging from $50,000 to $250,000. ASU’s goal is to build the fund to $10 million through private donations. Read the announcement.
  • Louisiana State University (LSU) created the LSU LIFT Fund with $2 million in restricted funds from previously licensed inventions to provide small grants to help faculty bring inventions to market. The Leveraging Innovation for Technology Transfer, or LIFT fund, will award grants twice a year, up to $50,000, according to the press release. The LSU Board of Supervisors also approved a recommendation to sustain the fund by allocating 5 percent of the university’s future intellectual property licensing income directly to the new fund.
  • TechColumbus will manage a new Catalyst Fund to invest in seed stage companies, including technology spinouts from The Ohio State University and Nationwide Children’s Hospital. The $7 million fund primarily will target advanced materials, alternative energy, information technology and life sciences. Read the blog post.
  • The University of Minnesota is expanding its Minnesota Innovation Partnerships (MN-IP) program in an effort to provide easy access to already developed university technologies. Under the expansion, a new “try and buy” option will allow companies to test the viability of available technologies during a free trial period. Read more.
  • A new program at the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology offers courses and hands-on experience for undergraduate and graduate students to gain the skills and knowledge for technology commercialization. The school’s newly launched Center for Leadership in Technology Commercialization will allow student teams to conduct market studies and other tasks to help researchers commercialize technologies from New Mexico’s national labs, reports the Albuquerque Journal.
  • A $2 million seed fund created by The University of Wisconsin (UW) System and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. will help faculty, staff and students pursue business ideas based on university research. Ideadvance Seed Fund is UW’s first gap fund, and will provide up to $75,000 in two stages to support entrepreneurs across a range of disciplines. Read the announcement…
Arizona, Louisiana, Minnesota, New Mexico, Ohio, Wisconsincapital, commercialization, higher ed