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States launching new tech commercialization programs to strengthen economies

October 24, 2019
By: Laura Lacy Graham

Knowing that research universities are integral to the innovation in this country, states continue their efforts to build the economy by supporting efforts to move the research from the labs to the market. In our ongoing review of state activities in 2019 (see our stories on free tuition offerings, climate change and clean energy), this week we report on new initiatives launched in 2019 that were focused on commercialization of technology. The following programs represent some of those efforts.


Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey participated in a ribbon-cutting ceremony in June for the state’s Invention to Innovation Center (I²C) on the campus of the University of Alabama in Huntsville. The I²C is a regional initiative that will serve as the focal point for incubation, education and support for entrepreneurs across a 15-county region in northern Alabama and south central Tennessee. The program seeks to foster, promote and accelerate the commercialization of technology-based ventures through incubation, co-working, mentorship, funding, and strategic support. The I²C is focused on stimulating the growth of both new and existing regional science and engineering high-tech companies and catalyzing the formation of a resilient entrepreneurial ecosystem in northern Alabama and south central Tennessee.


In February, the Indiana University (IU) Research and Technology Corp. announced the launch of  a new initiative, known as the Quarry, designed to help IU entrepreneurs. While the program revamps aspects of an earlier IU program called Spin Up, it is intended to more fully address the needs raised by IU faculty and provides assistance and support to IU staff and students who are interested in launching startups. The Quarry also provides entrepreneurs with a statewide network of services that assists in developing a business case, identifying potential funding sources, and recruiting long-term executive talent.


Also in February, the University of Minnesota (UM) formally launched a program to help its researchers start businesses and build a bridge between grant funding and outside investment. The university's Venture Center, part of UM’s Technology Commercialization Program, developed the Discovery Launchpad as a response to the "valley of death." The Discovery Launchpad started quietly in 2018 as a startup incubator that provided expert coaching and other support for researchers interested in forming startup companies to commercialize new technologies, and now offers resources or services that will assist university researchers for up to two years.

New Mexico

In June, the New Mexico Economic Development Department (NMEDD) announced that it was launching a new grant program to help facilitate the transfer of technology developed in state laboratories to businesses seeking to improve existing products or business procedures. The new grant program, known as the New Mexico Technology Transfer Assistance Grants (NM-TAG), seeks to assist in the transfer and commercialization of technologies developed in New Mexico to business startups. Noting that “there is a substantial amount of research being done at the National Laboratories and Universities in New Mexico that can be commercialized,” Economic Development Cabinet Secretary Alicia Keyes indicated that it was her hope that this new program could assist scientists wishing to start a business in the state. Starting July 1, eligible NM-TAG applicants must be NM-based companies with a project timeline of no more than six months. The maximum grant amount to be awarded is $3,750 (75 percent) of the typical cost of optioning a technology (approx. $5,000). The entire grant goes to the institution providing the technology and the company receiving the technology pays the remaining 25 percent of the optioning cost. Successful applicants can receive assistance for one tech transfer project a year. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis, with up to 10 grants to be awarded during the 2020 fiscal year (July 1, 2019 – June 30, 2020).

New York

At the end of May, the University at Buffalo (UB) announced the official launch of its Innovation Hub, which is designed to help connect UB ideas to businesses and move research from the lab to the marketplace. The Innovation Hub, funded through a $32 million Buffalo Billion II grant commitment from New York State, supports innovation at UB and its leading research partners—including Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, The Jacobs Institute, Hauptmann-Woodward Medical Research Institute and Kaleida Health.


Earlier this year, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s administration asked the Inter-University Council of Ohio to improve the licensing of intellectual property developed by the state’s public universities in order to strengthen Ohio’s economy, attract innovative researchers, and appeal to or continue to appeal to both investors and entrepreneurs.

Building on that directive, in September, Ohio Lt. Gov. Jon Husted announced the Ohio Intellectual Property (IP) Promise initiative. Under the leadership of Ohio State University and University of Cincinnati, and with input from members from the state’s public universities, faculty, research officers, and entrepreneurs and investors, the initiative as developed will assist the state’s public universities in the transfer of university discoveries to the commercial sector. The IP Promise establishes a uniform set of guiding principles that emphasize flexibility, transparency, simplicity, clarity and speed, so researchers know exactly how to take charge of their work and make it available to the public if they so choose.


In June, the University of Memphis in partnership with Epicenter Memphis — a regional entrepreneurial organization — announced a new post doc program called Patents2Products, with the goal of using the university’s patents and future patents to create new companies. Starting this fall, fellows in the program will be supported for two years, receive funding for initial startup costs, and access to researchers and lab facilities at the University of Memphis. Epicenter Memphis will assist fellows with mentors, customers, and capital for successful startups.

Alabama, Indiana, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Tennesseehigher ed, commercialization