At Rensselaer, innovation is a way of life for many faculty and budding student inventors. To honor their contributions to science, engineering, and research, last month the Office of Technology Commercialization (OTC) recognized and awarded 19 patent plaques to 14 members of the Rensselaer community during the annual Inventors’ Luncheon. The event was held in Russell Sage Dining Hall on Sept. 14.
Founded in the 1990s, the OTC helps the Institute protect intellectual property and forges relationships with industry to bring discoveries to the marketplace.
“We are very pleased to acknowledge the growing number of faculty and students with discoveries that are changing the world, and generating a new momentum in research and the development of innovative technologies,” said Ron Kudla, executive director of intellectual property, technology transfer, and new ventures.
Discoveries in nanotechnology, electronics, energy, materials, biotechnology, and terahertz are all part of the Institute’s expanding intellectual property portfolio as Rensselaer increases its aggressive research initiative. Since 2000, nearly 1,400 disclosures have been filed with the OTC. In fiscal year 2009, Rensselaer received more than $1,150,000 in revenue from licensing and patent reimbursements. And this year, the OTC broke its record for the highest amount received in gross licensing revenue.
“The annual Inventors’ Luncheon gives us an opportunity to celebrate Rensselaer researchers and student accomplishments, and also provide the community with updates regarding the patent and license process,” Kudla added. “We are also dedicated to building relationships with commercial partners that will provide future benefits to Rensselaer, researchers, and the broader community, so this gives us an opportunity to connect members of the campus community with them.”
Francine Berman, vice president for research, delivered a speech titled “Discovery and Innovation in Science and Technology.” Berman expressed that a focus on science and technology matters, as 21st century problems will require 21st century solutions. “Innovation and invention is changing the world. The development of low-cost laptops that can operate in the Third World, robots that can traverse battlefields and dangerous environments, and biodegradable packaging are all examples of ways that scientists and engineers have made the world a better place.”
“Our responsibility is to educate today’s students for a world of unprecedented complexity,” Berman added. “There is no ‘answer key’ in real life. Universities must prepare students for the ‘outside’ world they will encounter when they graduate.”
The OTC has launched a pilot program designed to help budding undergraduate student inventors navigate the patent and licensing process. The program provides students with information on how to start a company, licensing and patent procedures, and at a nominal cost, assistance with filing a provisional application and obtaining a license from Rensselaer. The students or their company are responsible for the patent defense and related costs, but no royalties are paid to Rensselaer until the company receives annual gross sales greater than $1 million, at which point they only pay a royalty of 1 percent.
“Rensselaer’s intellectual property policy is very similar to what students will face upon graduation or when they join the workforce,” Kudla said. “The new approach offers students greater flexibility to start a company and have access and support to commercialize the idea they’ve developed while using Rensselaer resources.”
Kudla noted that with the establishment of the OTC, Rensselaer has staked its claim in the changing landscape of American research universities, where researchers and students are increasingly encouraged to protect and commercialize their discoveries for life-enhancing products.
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