North Carolina State University had a challenge. It needed a new process to monetize its treasure trove of scientific advancements and university-invented technologies by matching these with potential research partners and sponsors. Any organization sitting on reams of intellectual property (IP) will learn from the experiences of Billy Houghteling, Director of the Office of Technology Transfer at NC State.His office is resonsible for transferring University-developed innovations to the marketplace and interracting with partners. "Our portfolio is very large, very diverse and it's understaffed," says Houghteling. "We have a hard time managing the intellectual property assets we have."
There are seven licensing professionals (including Houghteling) in the department and they are managinging some 3,000 technologies. In addition, there are 12 support professionals working in the department.
"Not only are we charged with managing the university's intellectual property assets, we're also charged with raising whole profile of technology in NC State," says Houghteling. "So we are always thinking about what type of research partnerships we could establish between an industry partner and faculty member in, say, our department of chemistry, for example."
The most time-consuming part of the process is what Houghteling's team calls "triage," in which the licensing professionals review an opportunity to determine market potential, investigate the patent landscape, and, if necessary, seek patent protection in order to move early-stage technologies to market. This triage process typically takes two to four months, and much of that time is spent on the back end trying to identify the right partners in a particular industry so they can be pitched on the project, explains Houghteling.
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