For five years, I have been fortunate enough to work alongside faculty, staff, administration, and alumni to enable technology transfer in the Eberly College of Science (ECoS). I started in ECoS as the first Intellectual Property/Technology Transfer Intern in 2013. It was a big title and responsibility for a graduate student who had experienced little beyond bench science. Thankfully, I wasn’t expected to go it alone; I had the Associate Dean for Research and Innovation, Dr. Andrew “Andy” Stephenson; the Office of Technology Management, and an incredible alumni-based Technology Advisory Board to help lead the way forward.
Working together, we established a bi-yearly meeting where faculty could discuss their intellectual property with the Technology Advisory Board. Composed of alumni with considerable depth of experience in technology commercialization outside academia, the Technology Advisory Board would offer constructive criticism and advice, including possible industry partners, future market applications, and needed development. Listening to the Technology Advisory Board weigh in on “next steps” for the technologies we reviewed was eye-opening… for myself, Andy, and the faculty members presenting. One message came through very clearly: in order to successfully progress technologies and facilitate translational research, the college needed to create a platform of support for faculty.
With lots of work on Andy and Dean Larson’s part, in 2015, the Office for Innovation was born to answer this need. The Office for Innovation has a multitude of responsibilities (the range of activities encapsulated under the simple term “tech transfer” continues to amaze me) but only one set of marching orders: provide ECoS faculty with the resources needed to move research to the public/marketplace and thereby positively impact society.
With Andy at the helm, the Office for Innovation includes two full-time staff members, the (volunteer) Technology Advisory Board, a (volunteer) Entrepreneur-in-Residence, as well as a number of graduate and undergraduate interns. Ashley Chan serves as the Industry Liaison and focuses on establishing productive research collaborations with industry partners. I serve as the Intellectual Property Liaison and focus on IP education, IP capture, as well as facilitating start-up formation. Matt Rhodes, as ECoS’ first Entrepreneur in Residence, provides support and guidance to entrepreneurial faculty and graduate students. We also still host the IP/Tech Transfer Internship, a position currently held by IBIOS graduate student Theodora Maravegias.
Since 2015, the Office for Innovation has continued to adapt to the demands of tech transfer and we are currently working hard to establish a roadmap of support. Ultimately, we would like to provide comprehensive support to faculty at each stage of technology development. Alongside the Technology Advisory Board, we seek to expose faculty to the intricacies of tech transfer as well as develop an action plan for continued development. In partnership with the Penn State Research Foundation, we fund early- to mid- stage translational research (which is generally not fundable under government basic research programs). We then collaborate with Vice President for Research offices to spur large scale industry partnerships and/or start-up creation. Finally, we continually work with ECoS faculty to understand their pain points and how we can best assist them.
As with any new effort or initiative, there have been growing pains. But I have never considered myself to be less than lucky to be a part of ECoS’ focus on technology transfer. My appreciation for research translation and commercialization, the people who make it possible, and the immense amount of collaboration needed to move it forward has only continued to grow. I look forward to what the next five years will bring!
If you would like to learn more about the Office for Innovation, please do not hesitate to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to speaking with you!