Tech Commercialization Efforts Set Records
Patent Applications, License Accords Climb; Invention Disclosures Rise 40%
Oct. 29, 2012
UT Dallas had a record number of invention disclosures, patent applications and licensing agreements in the past year, a result of the University’s growing efforts to transfer commercially viable research results from the lab to the marketplace.
The numbers tell the story. According to UT Dallas’s Office of Technology Commercialization (OTC), in fiscal year 2012 the University had:
- 66 invention disclosures, a 40 percent increase over FY11.
- 60 patent applications.
- 10 patents issued.
- 10 licenses and option agreements.
“These are all record numbers for the technology transfer enterprise at UT Dallas, and are key metrics for measuring the success of our efforts to facilitate the movement of findings from the lab into commercial markets,” said Robert Robb, associate vice president for technology commercialization in UT Dallas’s Office of Research. “In addition, two new start-up companies were formed based on university research.”
Dr. Hu (top center) says the graduate students working with him aid in the research commercialization process.
The pipeline for successful technology transfer begins with the university researchers who have novel ideas, said Becky Stoughton, director of technology commercialization.
“Technology transfer at UT Dallas is burgeoning into a mainstream initiative, and many of our faculty members are participating in the process,” Stoughton said. “The growth and quality of our technology transfer operation is a testament to the caliber of UT Dallas research and the inventiveness of our researchers.”
The OTC recently held its annual Inventor Recognition Luncheon, where the University honored the many UT Dallas researchers who have reported a new discovery, been awarded a patent, or participated in a license agreement in the past year.
Dr. Wenchuang (Walter) Hu, associate professor of electrical engineering in the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science, is among the dozens of faculty members who have utilized the services of the tech commercialization office. He was recognized at the luncheon for invention disclosures related to electronic biosensors.
Hu also has contributed to another measure of tech transfer success – the continued growth of the UT Dallas Venture Development Center (VDC), which opened in the fall of 2011 with 8,000 square feet of space to house and foster companies based on technology derived from UT Dallas research. Only a year after its launch, the center recently expanded to 12,600 square feet to accommodate increased demand for space by entrepreneurial initiatives.
Hu helped found Diagtronix in 2011, one of 11 UT Dallas spin-off companies located at the center. Hu currently is president and interim CEO of the company, which is focused on developing sensors that have applications in medical diagnostics, environmental monitoring and food safety. (See sidebar.)
“These disclosures are the result of multi-year research efforts at UT Dallas,” Hu said. “The Office of Research and the OTC have really done a wonderful job to help us and other companies.”
Companies at the VDC have created more than 50 jobs in the high-tech sector in fields that include novel materials, medical diagnostics, enterprise software, nanotechnology and power technology.
“The Venture Development Center is home to very promising start-up companies, and its success in fostering innovation and economic development is attracting attention throughout the region,” Robb said.
The VDC recently was named a 2012 Momentum Award winner by the Dallas Regional Chamber, earning the Innovation Catalyst Award. The Momentum Awards recognize companies, organizations or projects that have created positive economic momentum through job growth and location and expansion activities in the Dallas region.
To help identify promising innovations in the lab and facilitate the commercialization process, UT Dallas established its Office of Technology Commercialization in 2008. The OTC partners with the university’s Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship to promote innovation and help nurture new companies.
View from the Lab: Tech Transfer
Aligns With Overall Research Goals
Dr. Wenchuang Hu (above), an associate professor of electrical engineering, sees his work with the Venture Development Center as a natural extension of his University roles as researcher and educator:
“My research on biosensors at UT Dallas led to two patents, in 2010 and 2011. Together with some industry friends and entrepreneurs, we founded Diagtronix to commercialize this technology for applications in medical diagnostics, food safety and environmental monitoring.
“One of my graduate students recently joined the company as well, so we are not just “commercializing” the technology, but also the people involved.
“In addition to educating UT Dallas students as I guide them in research, it has always been my goal to make my research go beyond the laboratory if the opportunity arose. I believe that the value of science is the eventual use of it. Moreover, students are better motivated when they know their work may have a practical impact to society. So the opportunity to commercialize my innovations is well-aligned to my mission as both a research and an educator.
“I think commercialization is of vital importance to all universities to help generate more jobs, boost the economy and serve as an additional means to pay back to the community. Commercialization of our research innovations is not easy – in fact, it’s very hard. It takes a very different mindset from a researcher, and needs a lot of resources and help from the local economic ecosystem.
“But because of its importance, academic entrepreneurs need to stay hungry about it and be very patient and persistent toward that goal.”