Thursday, June 3, 2010

OSU revamps commercialization office - Business First of Columbus

OSU revamps commercialization office - Business First of Columbus

Ohio State University will leverage the expertise of its business school and expansive research faculty, while still seeking outside market experts, in a reorganization of its lagging efforts to turn discoveries into dollars.

The university announced Wednesday it is creating a new commercialization center to be housed at the Fisher College of Business that will cooperate heavily with other schools such as law, medicine, engineering and agriculture. A national search is under way for a commercialization officer to lead the effort.

While among the top 10 schools for research spending, at $719 million this year, Ohio State is at the bottom of the Big Ten and trails many smaller Ohio public and private schools for its licensing income from patents, at $1.9 million in 2009. The school has attributed that to both state law restrictions and a long-standing culture that had discouraged entrepreneurial efforts before the 2000s, so it has been playing catch-up during the several years it takes to develop income from a patent.

While the school has seen steady growth in patents and startups, the new organization will represent a leap, said Caroline Whitacre, vice president for research, who led the reorganization with Chris Poon, Fisher’s dean.

The new center will employ Fisher’s Center for Entrepreneurship, which has sponsored business plan competitions and created startup companies but until now hasn’t always applied that acumen to drugs or inventions from elsewhere in the university. Poon and Whitacre also are seeking a financial commitment from the university for a Proof of Concept Center, which will help the most promising discoveries with prototypes, business plans and market research to make them more attractive to potential licensees.

The university had probably tried to help too many researchers seek patents for projects that might not make it, Poon and Whitacre said. Now, panels of deans, faculty and outside market experts will judge which proposals have the best potential to sell, Poon and Whitacre said.

“For the most part the deans and the colleges were not really actively involved in looking at the array of technologies and prioritizing ones that we should be putting resources against,” Poon said. “It’s very, very difficult to serve the needs of all the faculty members out there. ... The tech transfer office is not and never will be experts on all these fields of science.”

Jean Schelhorn, associate vice president for technology transfer and commercialization, will have her position eliminated in July. She will continue to work on licensing projects within the Office of Research and can be a candidate for the new post, Whitacre said.


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