West Virginia Universitys ability to help faculty and students bring technologies to the marketplace got a boost recently through a $1.72 million grant from the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation.
The money will be used to help strengthen the Universitys efforts in evaluating, protecting and commercializing new technologies invented by faculty and students. It will also help establish a technology center that will serve as an incubator site for new companies and entrepreneurial activities �€University-related and from the private sector.
“Our progress in technology transfer has grown in the past two years, and this grant will speed us toward our goal of creating a strong link between innovations and bringing them to the global marketplace,”said John Weete, associate provost for research and president of the WVU Research Corp.”We are exceedingly grateful to the Benedum Foundation for this generous gift to help WVU play a significant role in the economic development of West Virginia through technology transfer.”
The Benedum Foundation funded a preliminary study on the potential for enhancing economic development through technology transfer and commercialization. Conducted by Professor Tom Witt of the College of Business and Economics and issued in 1997, the study identified the Universitys potential for enhancing economic development by more effectively using its growing knowledge base. The study also provided recommendations to accomplish this. In response, WVU established an Office of Technology Transfer (OTT) in 1999 and has committed $300,000 a year to the effort, which has resulted in a dramatic increase in technology transfer activities, Weete said.
George Harker, an experienced technology transfer professional with a global business/technology background, joined WVU in 1999 as OTT s director. He evaluates research and possible inventions from across the University, assesses market potential, works with attorneys to protect valuable technologies through patents and copyrights, and then seeks opportunities for partnerships with existing companies or start-up companies for commercialization. He works with WVU s economic development director, Scott Rotruck, who also joined WVU in 1999 as a response to the 1997 Benedum study.
During the first year OTT was in operation, invention disclosures more than doubled and patent filings tripled. Now in its second year, OTT is experiencing further increases in these areas as WVU researchers are learning the value and benefits their developments can provide beyond the University arena, Harker said.
“This generous grant will help us expand our technology transfer capabilities, increase our technology portfolio and support our WVU mission to leverage WVU research and innovations into economic development opportunities for our state,”he said.
The grant, which will be paid over five years, will also move forward plans for a technology transfer center on University land, which Harker said should open as early as 2003.
While WVU s OTT will help WVU researchers protect and license intellectual property, the center will take their ideas toward commercialization and also be a site for start-up companies based on WVU technologies. It would also be a site for companies that wish to locate in Morgantown to be near the University.
Dr. Weete said the combination of facilitating innovation and providing an incubation site for product development will create”a world-class center for research, development and commercialization benefitting the community, region and the state through new high-tech jobs and further diversification of the economy.”