Purdue faculty help peers strategically move innovations to public

June 4, 2015  

Lonnie Bentley

Lonnie Bentley
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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – With a record-breaking 24 startups in 2014 that tripled the previous year's numbers, Purdue University faculty are leaders in technology translation.

This growth trend also is reflected in other substantive increases in commercialization activities including 156 U.S. and global issued patents through the Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization, representing a more than 30 percent increase over the previous year; and 120 licensing deals of Purdue intellectual property with startups and established companies, for an increase of more than 20 percent over the prior year.

One secret to this success is that Purdue faculty are helping each other strategically move innovations to the public, where these technologies can positively impact our global society.

Established in 2014, the translational program called "Deliberate Innovation for Faculty" is led by faculty leaders from different disciplines at Purdue who have successfully founded one or more startups from their research. Now, these effective faculty innovators and entrepreneurs are helping other interested faculty identify research that has market potential and are guiding them through the commercialization process.

"It's a new type of mentoring program where faculty entrepreneurs look at faculty and graduate student research in its early stages and review the potential market value of the innovations so they can help prepare a strategic plan to commercialize their work," said Lonnie Bentley, a professor in the Purdue Polytechnic Institute and the most recent of seven faculty DIFF leaders. "This is the exact opposite of how research was translated to the public in the past. We used to focus on just the research, and when we came to a conclusion and wanted to patent our innovation we might start to think about getting our innovation licensed or perhaps think about creating a startup. It was an afterthought before, but now we are working to put this consideration in the early stages of research."

The program is led by the Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship and jointly supported by Purdue Research FoundationPurdue Foundry, Discovery ParkPurdue Polytechnic Institute, the College of Engineering, Krannert School of Management, College of Agriculture and the College of Veterinary Medicine.

"This program not only allows faculty to help other faculty, but the experiences they gain from moving an innovation to commercialization also can enrich Purdue's academic goals," said Gary Bertoline, dean of the Purdue Polytechnic Institute. "It can increase research funding and opportunities, and it enriches the educational experiences of our undergraduate and graduate students because faculty can share their own business and industry knowledge and actively engage students so they can experience real-world business practices and be better prepared for their own futures."

Cliff Wojtalewicz, managing director of the Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship in Purdue's Discovery Park, helps direct the program.

"As a land-grant institution Purdue has an obligation to explore new areas of tech transfer opportunities and to identify innovations with strong commercialization potential. This is something we take very seriously and Deliberate Innovation for Faculty helps us do that," Wojtalewicz said. "DIFF Directors also lead a transformational program within their academic expertise. These programs serve multiple purposes and help Purdue generate new industrial partnerships, collaborations and research."

Wojtalewicz added that many funding agencies are already asking researchers to include societal benefits and commercialization plans in funding proposals.

Bentley said he wished this program had been in place when he co-founded the successful Indianapolis-based Broadband Antenna Tracking Systems Inc., or BATS, in 2008.

"When I started BATS there weren't many resources and just a handful of faculty who had started companies," Bentley said. "Then everything changed after Mitch (Purdue President Mitch Daniels) and Dan (Hasler, Purdue Chief Entrepreneurial Officer) came here. The whole climate has changed, and there are so many more resources and services available for Purdue entrepreneurs. The atmosphere itself is different, and I can't help but believe it will lead to a lot of great technologies and startups coming out of Purdue."

In addition to Bentley, the faculty directors of the Deliberate Innovation for Faculty program and their respective areas of expertise are:

* J. Eric Dietz, director of the Purdue Homeland Security Institute and professor of computer and information technology, Purdue Polytechnic Institute, defense and homeland security.

* Cliff Johnston, professor of soil chemistry and mineralogy and director of enhanced oil recovery at Purdue, College of Agriculture, oil and gas and environmental sustainability.

*Matthew Lynall, clinical associate professor, Krannert School of Management, strategic management and experiential learning in entrepreneurship.

* Ernesto Marinero, professor of engineering practice, schools of Chemical and Materials Engineering, College of Engineering, nano manufacturing and nano materials.

*Alyssa Panitch, Leslie A. Geddes Professor in the Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering, life sciences and biomedical engineering.

*Riyi Shi, professor of neurosciences, colleges of Veterinary Medicine and Engineering, neurosciences and basic medical sciences.

For more information on this and other Purdue programs to assist researchers, entrepreneurs and industries interested in commercialization activities, visit the Purdue Innovation and Entrepreneurship page.

About Discovery Park

Discovery Park harnesses Purdue's research capabilities to tackle global challenges and respond to local, state, national and global needs. Interdisciplinary research teams work at the frontiers of new science and technology, delivering innovation through business development, industry partnerships and all levels of education.

About Purdue Foundry

Purdue Foundry is an entrepreneurship and commercialization hub created to serve Purdue innovators who have an interest in forming a startup or licensing their discoveries. The Foundry is supported and managed by the Purdue Research Foundation. Assistance provided includes product ideation and market analysis on an innovation, business plan development and mentoring from the Purdue entrepreneurs-in-residence.

About Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship

The Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship is Purdue's interdisciplinary hub for entrepreneurship. Through its sponsored initiatives, including the Certificate in Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Technology Realization Program, Entrepreneurial Leadership Academy and Business Plan competitions, the center aims to stimulate entrepreneurship in the Purdue community.

Writer: Cynthia Sequin, 765-588-3340, casequin@prf.org 

Sources: Gary Bertoline, 765-496-1313, bertolig@purdue.edu

Lonnie Bentley, 765-491-9505, bentleyl@purdue.edu 

Cliff Wojtalewicz, 765-496-3961, cliffw@prf.org 

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